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Mountaineers, Duke Ready for Game Day


It is finally game day for WVU and Duke in the national semi-finals from Indianapolis.  Mountaineer players are tired of talking and they are ready to play. 

"It is great to see all of the Mountaineer fans who have made the trip to be with us here in Indianapolis,"  Mountaineer senior Da’Sean Butler said.   "The opportunity is just great.   It will interesting to see how everything works out once the game starts.   I am just ready to play." 

The Mountaineers have been off since last Saturday when they beat Kentucky in the East Regional final to clinch the Final Four birth.   The players got Sunday and Monday off.   They practiced in Morgantown Tuesday and Wednesday prior to traveling into Indianapolis.   The team practiced at a local college Thursday morning prior to a brief closed workout at Lucas Oil Stadium Thursday afternoon.

Then came the Friday open workout at the Stadium in front of a crowd estimated as high as 30,000 people.    The largest crowd ever for a WVU game was a contest at Syracuse a few years back that drew 29,000.

"It was cool,"  Butler said of the public practice at the massive home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.  "Just seeing all of the people.   The fans reacted to every play and to every drill.   Whenever you dunked a basketball, you could hear the yells and the screams.  The game will be even more intense as the fans will react to every play and not be able to take their eyes off it." 

Other news and notes from the WVU and Duke locker rooms Friday. 

–Mountaineer freshman Dalton Pepper and Danny Jennings are excited to be a part of a Final Four in their first years.

"I am just taking it all in,"  Pepper said.  "You never know if you will ever be back here again.  You dream of being on a Final Four team all the way back to when you were a kid.   And here we are."

"Until you are here, you don’t understand how exciting it is and how much your fans love you,"  Jennings said.   "This Final Four means a lot to the state and we have to play to win the championship.   We are putting all of efforts into preparing for this and when we take the floor, we will put all of our efforts into trying to win this championship."

–Duke senior forward Lance Thomas scouted the Mountaineer offense;

"They can score at every position,"  Thomas said.  Mazzulla is a guy who is just getting healthy and contributing on the offensive end.   That gives them another weapon and he is a very confident player.

"Everybody can score,"  Thomas, who had a career high eight offensive rebounds in the Baylor Regional Final win continued.  "Smith can step away from the basket and he always seems to get a match up he can exploit.

"Da’Sean has been Da’Sean all year.   He is just a killer.  I’ve always had great respect for him and I have watched him grow into the player he is now.   And look at him.  He is the face of West Virginia.

"I have great respect for their other guys as well,"  Thomas concluded. 

–Duke junior guard Nolan Smith talked about the WVU defense;

"We have to be aggressive against their zone just like we were against the Baylor zone,"   Smith said.  Against that zone, we just have to focus on one guy.  If I see a guy coming at me in the 1-3-1, I have to go at him just like it is a one-on-one situation.  I believe I can get past any one guy.

"They have great length.   We have to use out quickness to get past that length and just attack it.

"But we know they are mostly man-to-man, Smith said.   "They are tough in that man-to-man and they rebound very well out of it.   That may be the key.   If we can get shots off rebounds, that would be huge.   Which team makes the tough plays will probably be the one that wins." 

–Duke junior forward Kyle Singler continued on that defensive theme;

"They are very disciplined on defense,"  Singler said.   "They can go from man to that 1-3-1 very quickly.   They rebound really well and they are very active.   They never take anything off on the defensive end.

"We have played against a 1-3-1 this year but maybe without anyone as big as Ebanks atop the zone,"   Singler said.    "It will be different but I think we are well prepared and we will be ready." 

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