Ready for this match up betweeen top ten teams, the first ever at the Coliseum.
–Students allowed in a little before 10 a.m. A wild scene ensued as the students rushed in to get to the risers down near the court. The lower student section was 100% full within 15 minutes or so. By 10:45, the upper student section was about 90% full. The rest of the Coliseum is filling up slowly. I think people drive in, park their cars and then walk down the road to get something to eat.
–So many key match ups for this game today. It has to be a huge day for Wellington Smith and Cam Thoroughman on defense. The Mountaineers do not have the size to match Arinze Onuaku at 6-9, 261. The Mountaineers just can’t allow him to have a monster game. He is the all time field goal percentage leader at Syracuse as he has hit an amazing 65% of his shots.
–Andy Rautins is coming off a near triple/double from a Syracuse win at Rutgers Wednesday as he had 23 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. Rautins will be called on more to handle the ball today.
–That leads to the next point; The Mountaineers need to turn their junk yard dog (Joe Mazzulla) loose on Syracuse freshman point guard Brandon Triche.
–This Syracuse team lost NBA point guard Johnny Flynn plus scorers Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf from the team last year. Iowa State transfer Wes Johnson has stepped into the role of leading scorer and rebounder. Johnson, however, is coming off a 4-11 shooting performance in the Rutgers game.
–Syracuse is a much deeper team this year than last season. The Orange played just seven players vs. West Virginia in that Big East Tournament game. And that was with Syracuse coming off epic six-overtime game against UConn. This year, Syracuse has ten players averaging at least nine minutes per game.
–The Orange are turning teams over by an average of 18.5 times per game. That is the biggest key. The Mountaineers have to preserve their possessions. With those nearly 19 turnovers per game, Syracuse is cashing in at the other end with easy baskets. They are the highest scoring team in the Big East at 85.5 points per game and they lead all conference teams by shooting 53% from the field. Again, a lot of easy baskets at the other end after forcing turnovers out of that 2/3 zone.
–At the first media timeout, WVU has not had problems getting shots against the zone. WVU had nine rebounds in the first 4:30, but was just 2-12 from the field.
–Syracuse has committed six early turnovers. The Freshman Triche had two when he was replaced in the lineup by Scoop Jardine. Also, Wellington Smith out with two fouls at the 13:00 mark.
–At half, both teams have struggled offensively but because of different reasons. The Mountaineers got shots (31 attempts compared to 18 for Syracuse) but WVU shot just 32%. Syracuse hit a high percentage (61%) but the Orange turned it over 13 times.
–Freshman Dalton Pepper has hit the two biggest shots of his young career in this game as he hit a three in the first half. He then knocked down a three at the 16:00 mark of the second half to put the Mountaineers in the lead.
–One hopes that it does not come down the foul shooting. The Mountaineers are just 4-9 through the first 6:00 of the second half.
–Mountaineers are shooting it better in the second half. Pepper has a pair of threes and Kevin Jones has one.