West Virginia-Connecticut Preview
Before this season began, West Virginia and Connecticut were
picked among the teams expected to contend for the Big East
Only one school remains in the hunt, but time is running out for
the eighth-ranked Mountaineers.
To keep from falling further behind the frontrunners, West
Virginia has the daunting task of trying to earn its first road win
over a Connecticut team desperate to improve its slim NCAA
In the Big East preseason poll, the conference’s coaches picked
West Virginia to finish second behind Villanova and ahead of
Connecticut. The Mountaineers (21-5, 10-4) have lived up to those
expectations, but back-to-back losses earlier this month helped
drop them two games behind Syracuse with four to play.
They bounced back with consecutive victories, including
Saturday’s 75-63 home win over Seton Hall in which they endured
another rough shooting performance.
West Virginia went the final nine minutes without a field goal
and nearly blew a 19-point lead. The Mountaineers got their final
15 points from the free-throw line and were 12 of 16 in the final
“Sometimes when we get up big, we get too lackadaisical and just
stop doing what got us the lead, so we need to work on that,” said
forward Kevin Jones, the team’s co-leader in the win with 16
points. “We weren’t getting the shots that we were getting in the
first half because we weren’t finding the seams or the open spots
that we usually do.”
Despite his team’s occasional shooting struggles, Mountaineers
forward Devin Ebanks has made 55.6 percent of his attempts over the
past five games while averaging 15.8 points – nearly four above his
Ebanks, though, was held to four points while shooting 2 of 8 in
last season’s 61-55 home loss to the then-No. 5 Huskies. West
Virgina also had its worst night from the floor in the defeat at
Connecticut (16-11, 6-8) is in danger of missing the NCAA
tournament after reaching the Final Four last season, but it has a
victory over then-no. 1 Texas and won 84-75 at No. 3 Villanova on
Feb. 15. The victory over the Wildcats was the Huskies’ first since
coach Jim Calhoun returned from a medical leave of absence.
The Huskies followed their latest upset with a 76-58 victory at
Rutgers on Saturday. Jerome Dyson scored 20 points and Kemba Walker
had 14 of his 16 in the second half.
“At this point, we’re desperate,” Dyson said. “We’ve got to win.
That’s our main goal right now is to take it one game at a time and
play as hard as possible. This was a big confidence builder for us
and we have to look forward to Monday’s game.”
Dyson, who leads Connecticut with 18.7 points per game, and
Walker were among four players in double figures in last season’s
win over the Mountaineers.
Connecticut leads the all-time series 14-4 and has won all seven
of its home games between the teams, including two at the XL Center
The Mountaineers have not beaten the Huskies since the 2008 Big
East tournament quarterfinals.