The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 8, 2012

Irish visit West Virginia on a roll

From staff, wire reports
The Register-Herald

— Home sweet home.

The Mountaineers will enjoy a two-game homestand beginning tonight as West Virginia University hosts Notre Dame in a Big East men’s basketball contest at the WVU Coliseum.

The game will tip-off at 9 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ESPNU.

Playing in Morgantown will be a welcome relief for WVU after playing three of its last four game on the road, and dropping three of them — at St. John’s Jan. 25, at Syracuse Jan. 28 and home to Pitt Jan. 30.

The Mountaineers are 58-11 at home under head coach Bob Huggins, in his fifth year at his alma mater.

An 87-84 overtime road win at Providence Sunday broke the three-game skid.

Kevin Jones finished with 20 points against Providence, but he struggled hitting just 8 of 19 shots.

“We didn’t play particularly well and we were able to win,” said Huggins. “That was probably the worst game KJ has had, in all honesty, since Mississippi State and somehow we are able to figure out a way to win.

“Hopefully this game will get us back on track and back where we’ve got to go because I think everyone knows how hard our schedule is down the stretch with Notre Dame (tonight) and Louisville on Saturday,” added Huggins.

West Virginia (16-8 overall, 6-5 Big East) will be looking to stop a four-game Fighting Irish win streak.

Notre Dame (15-8, 7-3) defeated No. 15 Marquette Saturday. The Irish last lost Jan. 16, to Rutgers 65-58. The four game win streak began with a stunning 67-58 home victory over No. 1 ranked Syracuse Jan. 21 and includes a 50-48 road victory over No. 24 UConn Jan. 29.

In the series between the two clubs, WVU has won two in a row over the Irish and four of the last five meetings. Notre Dame holds the series lead at 25-12 however.

In last year’s meeting in Morgantown, Notre Dame came in ranked No. 8/No. 7 in the two major polls. But WVU posted a 72-58 victory over the Irish led by Darryl “Truck” Bryant’s 24 points in a nationally televised contest on CBS.

Notre Dame is currently fourth in the Big East standings while the Mountaineers are eighth.

Jones, a candidate for Big East and National Player of the Year honors, was recently named to the John Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list and the Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason Top 20 list.

He leads the Big East in scoring and rebounding, with 20.8 ppg and 11.2 rpg. and has scored 20 or more in nine straight games.

Jones is currently ranked nationally in several categories — third in offensive rebounds per game, second in field goals made, third in double-doubles, fourth in rebounds per game and 10th in points per game.

Deniz Kilicli, a junior forward, pulled down a career-high 22 rebounds at Providence. He averages 11.0 points and 5.6 boards per game. Bryant, a senior guard, adds 17.6 points and 3.0 rebounds per contest for the Mountaineers.

Notre Dame gets balanced scoring from sophomore guards Eric Atkins (13.1 ppg) and Jerian Grant (12.7 ppg.). Junior forward Jack Cooley adds 10.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest for the coach Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish.

“Beating Syracuse made us more hungry,” Brey said. “What I really love about our group, with each win it’s been ‘Maybe we are special. Let’s keep this thing going.’ It will be tested (tonight) though. We’ve had some fun nights and nightmare nights in Morgantown. I love the energy there. I think our kids love playing in those kinds of atmospheres.

“(Kevin) Jones would be my Player of the Year candidate right now,” Brey added. “I love how he leads and sets the tone. He is such a man, a mature guy. He is a clutch guy that makes his teammates believe.”

“I’m glad he is a senior and he’ll be out of the league.”