Forget sand and sun: WVU says winning is mission in Cancun

WVU coach Bob Huggins instructs Devin Williams during a 101-68 win over Georgia Southern.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Before leaving chilly Morgantown for the Yucatan Peninsula, Devin Williams spoke of the business-or-pleasure conundrum a holiday tournament like the Cancun Challenge presents.

“I’ve got my swim trunks and my sandals and stuff—I’m ready to stick my feet in the sand,” said West Virginia’s freshman forward. “I’m going to take my little pictures and stuff for memories, but I’m more excited to be there and take care of business. Keep the roll going.”

After winning its last three games by an average of 26 points, WVU (4-1) begins a two-game stretch in Mexico where Williams said the goal is to “get that ‘chip (championship) and them dubs (W’s).” Tonight’s pairing against Old Dominion (4-1) tips at 6 p.m. and precedes the Wednesday night matchup against either No. 10 Wisconsin (6-0) or St. Louis (5-0).

“It’s going to be our first real competition,” said Williams, who averages 11.6 points and a team-high 8.0 rebounds. “Whoever we play, I’m pumped. Showing the new look of West Virginia is going to be big.”

Mountaineers point guard Juwan Staten has played lights out in every game this season save for an 87-82 loss at Virginia Tech in which WVU blew a 17-point lead. “We’re excited to get out of the country, but we’re definitely going down there to win,” he said. “This will definitely let us know where we stand.”

Said guard Terry Henderson of the five-day excursion to Cancun: “The sunshine’s good, but at the end of the day we want to win.”

Tipoff: 6 p.m. in Cancun (CBS Sports Network)
Record: The Monarchs (4-1) dropped their opener to Missouri State 79-67 in overtime before rebounding for four straight wins. As for comparative scores from last week, ODU defeated Presbyterian 69-51 and Georgia Southern 86-69, teams WVU beat by 33 points.
Coach: Jeff Jones (358-286) spent eight years at Virginia and the last 13 seasons at American before taking over at ODU last April. “I’ve got great respect for Jeff,” said Bob Huggins. “I think he does a great job of coaching. We played them in the Sweet 16 when he was at Virginia (1993). He kind of grew up around the game like I did. He is the son of a coach and he’s been around the game his whole life and he’s been in the gym his whole life.”
Top players: Sophomore guard Aaron Bacote (21.6 points per game) is the top scorer, but junior guard Dimitri Batten (12.2 ppg) is equally capable of big nights. He poured in 23 last season in an upset of Virginia. Sophomore point guard Keenan Palmore (10.2 ppg) and forward Richard Ross (11.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg) give ODU added scoring punch.
Line: West Virginia favored by 7.
Prediction: WVU 74-67

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