Ben Queen/MetroNews photo
Juwan Staten produced 20 points and nine assists in West Virginia’s 101-68 win over Georgia Southern.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With defensive rebounds leading to quick outlet passes and players trailing in hot pursuit of the ball, West Virginia is developing a fast-break reputation through four games.
That’s a small sample size, for sure, and the competition hasn’t been stellar—so it’s awfully early to dub these guys the Runnin’ Mountaineers. Still, they’re playing at a briskness that wasn’t there last year, when they ranked 219th nationally in scoring at 66.1 points per game. Through two admittedly brief weeks this season, WVU ranks 26th by averaging 89 points.
Coach Bob Huggins called the newfound transition game a product of incentive.
“It’s a lot easier for guys to run when they think they’re going to get the ball,” he said. “We play so much better together. They’re so much more unselfish.” (That’s a might more efficient than last year when Huggins referenced players leading the break by “dribbling and shooting it behind the backboard.”)
Juwan Staten, the point guard with a 31-to-4 assist-to-turnover ratio, earned one of those assists Thursday with a behind-the-back feed to Terry Henderson that led to a dunk in a 101-68 win over Georgia Southern.
“Last year we didn’t really have a runner’s mentality, and we rarely got any baskets in transition,” Staten said. “So that’s something I’ve been stressing to my wings—Terry and Eron (Harris)—because they’re great athletes ad we need to use their athleticism.”
As the domestic portion of the Cancun Challenge continues Saturday afternoon, the Mountaineers figure to have a huge edge in athleticism over Presbyterian, a team picked at the bottom of the Big South.
Tipoff: 1:30 p.m. in Morgantown (WV Media TV)
Record: The Blue Hose (1-4) earned their only win against Toccoa Falls, a Christian division program, and have gone 0-4 against D-I competition that includes Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Old Dominion—losing by an average margin of 21 points and trailing at halftime by an average of 14.
Coach: Gregg Nibert, in his 25th season at the Clinton, S.C., campus, led Presbyterian to NAIA and Division II national tournaments before making the jump to D-I in 2007. The program’s season win totals since then are 5, 12, 5, 13, 14 and 8.
Style points: About that nickname—it’s partially a take on the blue stockings the college’s teams wore 100 years ago, and partially a nod to the Presbyterians with “strong puritan leanings,” according to the school’s website. The school’s Scottish warrior mascot wears blue hose, of course. As for playing style, the Blue Hose have struggled to 62 points per game this season (a stat that looks even worse when yo withhold the 86 points they hung on Toccoa).
Top players: Guard Jordan Downing, a Davidson transfer, averages 19 points, while freshman guard Reggie Dillard pours in 14.2. Another freshman, 6-8 center William Truss, averages a double-double (10 points and 10.8 rebounds), but he’s the only player on the roster taller than 6-5.
WVU roster notes: Gary Browne, who was hampered by a thigh bruise, sprained an ankle late in the win over Georgia Southern. He could be a game-time decision Saturday. … Nathan Adrian blocked three shots against GSU, giving the 6-foot-9 freshman five for the season. No one else on the team has more than two.
Line: West Virginia favored by … as much you like. Vegas had not set a line for this game as of Saturday morning.
Prediction: WVU 80-62.