The West Virginia Mountaineer Men's Basketball squad travels the seventy miles north to square off with the Duquesne Dukes in Pittsburgh's brand spanking new hockey arena, the Consol Energy Center. I don't imagine a raucous road environment and, with a winter storm bearing down on the area, I think we'll see a lot of empty seats tonight. While I'm sure that's what we'll find in the stands, who knows what to expect on the floor.
The Mountaineers are coming off a victory against the Robert Morris Colonials in which Huggins played the B Team exclusively in the second half. Kevin Jones, Danny Jennings and Casey Mitchell never got back into the game after Huggins pulled the entire team in a five man shift change mere seconds into the second half. While this shrewd coaching move catapaulted the Mountaineers to victory, it still means the same questions hang in the air.
Casey Mitchell has been the missing man over the last two games, proving that his explosive four game scoring stretch early in the season can't be counted on to happen nightly. Hopefully the Mountaineers will run some set plays to get Mitchell open off of screens. While he's shown the ability to create for himself, he hasn't had a quick step in the last couple games, which could be that lack of hustle that Huggins keeps harping about. The Mountaineers seem unable to score at will and are desperately searching for someone to step up into that role. If Mitchell can display any consistency, he could be that guy. Tonight is the kind of night where he should go off and push his point total near thirty. Either that, or he'll just sashay through the motions and never once get a step on his man. I imagine Huggs has been breathing down his neck and I hope to see a spring in his step tonight.
Kevin Jones is a little dinged up and, hopefully, that's the reason for his inconsistent early season shooting. In the interim, John Flowers has been an essentiall "glue guy" leading the team in rebounding and hustle plays. If Flowers can get some garbage points by being opportunistic, then the Mountianeers can make up for Jones' sluggish start. In the second half against Robert Morris Deniz Kilicli seemed to finally get into the rhythm offensively by making decisive decisions with the basketball. The Turk has to become an offensive contributor because, without him, Huggins has to go with defensive minded players like Cam Thoroughman and Danny Jennings. If Kilicli can demand defenders attention, then all the better for the Mountaineers' outside shooting. Tonight's game is all about Huggins finding out who has the skill to score, and the will to play.
Check back during the game for updates from the couch by the light of the Christmas tree. I'd wanted to go up to this one to check out the new arena, but I'm glad I won't be on the road to night.