SCOUTING THE BLUE DEMONS
DePaul’s multi-year struggles finally resulted in head coach Jerry Wainwright’s dismissal in early January and the appointment of interim head coach Tracy Webster. Webster is 1-3 since assuming the helm, though that was to be expected as the Blue Demons have long lagged behind the majority of the conference in quality talent. That’s not much different this season, though the school was able to top Marquette by a point and has played well in stretches. The top -- and really only -- threat is shooting guard Will Walker (6-0, 190 lbs.), a senior who averages 16 points and three boards. Walker plays almost 37 minutes per game, and it’s a good thing, because he takes a ton of shots to get those 16 points. He is making just 36.8 percent from the floor and 30.8 percent from three (40 of 130), and he makes less than 68 percent from the line. Average on the offensive glass for his size, he does rebound well defensively, and his 50 assists against 30 turnovers and 31 total steals show an ability to handle the ball and underscore a bit of heady play and quickness. Walker doesn’t get much help, as the rest of the starters combine for 21 points on average for a team that barely reaches the 60-point plateau on average. Point guard Jeremiah Kelly (6-1, 170 lbs.) hits for 5.6 points and 3.1 boards with a better than two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. A distributor of the purest level, Kelly shoots 31 percent from the field and 24 percent from three. He isn’t great at the line, either, and hasn’t shown an ability to drive past many other solid Big East point players. Get into the passing lanes and worry more about his ball distribution and kick-outs than any kind of shooting from here. Third guard Eric Wallace (6-6, 215 lbs.), who essentially serves as the de facto swingman, is another player at about 38 percent from the floor and 25 from three. He averages seven points and five rebounds and is a solid player who could emerge more if others around him were better. The sophomore has a solid upside, and attacks the offensive and defensive glass equally well. His points will come on putbacks and moves around the bucket -- but West Virginia can feel free to foul away here. He makes 31.7 percent from the foul line. The Mountaineers will need to be aware of getting a body on him on both ends, something they did not do against Ohio State center Dallas Lauderdale, who hurt them for all-too-routine follow-ups.
Forward Devin Hill (6-9, 200 lbs.) has great length but isn’t developed enough in strength or overall game. The Sophomore plays about half the time, and averages 6.6 points and 3.7 rebounds. His is adequate around the rim, but his shooting percentages aren’t much higher than the rest of the woeful Blue Demons. He is second on the team behind Wallace in blocks with 21, and his defensive effort is good. Center Krys Faber (6-11, 260 lbs.) , two points, three rebounds, is serviceable but little more. Another sophomore who needs time, Faber has started just five games this season and frankly isn’t ready for the daily rigors of the Big East. He is a decent rebounder, decent shooter, decent player. But decent isn’t good enough in the best conference in the nation. This starting lineup just doesn’t execute well enough or shoot well enough to overcome it’s talent issues.
|Tue. Jan. 26
8:30 p.m. EST
WVU 15-3, 4-2
DePaul 8-11, 1-6
Big East Network
639, 640, 659
|Sirius Channel: 126
WVU - 5
DePaul - 141
Forward reserves Mario Stula (6-7, 210 lbs.) and Tony Freeland (6-6, 216 lbs.) combine for five points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Stula is shooting below the team field goal average, but has shown some fill-in ability on the boards. He isn’t a great athlete, and more often than not settles for outside looks. The Croatian is better from three-point range than anything inside, though, and WVU must guard him deep. Freeland’s game, conversely, is all inside. The true freshman is 11 of 24 from the field and 10 of 22 from the line. He can rebound and will challenge players physically. He is decent on the boards on both ends, and does have a nice future with some coaching help. One of six children, Freeland has five relatives who played Division I basketball. Freshman Nate Rogers (6-1, 185 lbs.) provides depth at guard. He is playing only about seven minutes per game, and his shooting and scoring numbers are average. The frosh is certainly a minute-stealer right now and, like most of the team, simply needs further development at this time.
This team simply isn’t very good. They have a solid threat at shooting guard, but if that weapon is shut down or slowed, the rest of the team hasn’t made enough shots to worry good rebounding opponents like West Virginia. The Mountaineers have more talent, experience, ability, depth and skill at almost every position, and frankly must play a poor game for DePaul to have a chance. Even if WVU doesn’t shoot well, nothing in Demons’ stats -- from overall to three-point to foul shooting and rebounding -- would lead one to believe it could beat the Mountaineers in a complete game. This is the classic get-through. It’s late January, it’s a short prep time with travel after coming off a couple emotion games and one against a Top 25 foe. It’s an opponent that is overmatched, is adjusting to a coaching change and one that is young, inexperienced and that lacks many of the weapons available to West Virginia. This is a show of mental toughness and discipline as much as any type of basketball -- the typical mid-winter Tuesday workday. Know how it feels to go to work those days? That’s how this game looks to WVU. Get through it and go. There really isn’t anything else.
DePaul: G Michael Bizoukas (Foot), Out; F Mac Koshwal (Foot), Out.
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West Virginia is unbeaten in 22 games under Bob Huggins when shooting better than 50 percent. It is 55-5 when leading at halftime, and has won 38 of its last 42 games against unranked foes.
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DePaul has lost seven of its last eight games, with the lone win coming by a point against Marquette. It is 6-3 at home this season. Interim head coach Tracy Webster is 1-3 since taking over in January for the departed Jerry Wainwright.
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The teams first met in the 1945 NIT in New York. DePaul won 76-52. The Mountaineers have won all three games since, with all coming as a result of Big East play.
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Huggins is 28-8 all-time against the Blue Demons. He went 26-7 while at Cincinnati, 0-1 at Kansas State and 2-0 at WVU.
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West Virginia is back in the Associated Press top 10 after its wins over Marshall and ranked Ohio State. The No. 9 Mountaineers were ranked in the top 10 for nine straight weeks at the start of the year, the most consecutive weeks since the 1960 season. WVU has been ranked 35 weeks since the start of 2005.