Mountaineers try to get on track against Duquesne
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's basketball team will try to rebound from an awful, disheartening loss last week against a team that provided it with one of its most awful, disheartening losses of last season.
For those who considered Tuesday's 87-82 loss at ACC basement-dweller Virginia Tech - a game in which WVU lost a 17-point first-half lead - as bottom of the barrel, maybe a refresher is due. It was a year ago that the Mountaineers lost a 15-point second-half lead to Atlantic 10 bottom feeder Duquesne at the Consol Energy Center.
Well, the Dukes are back today. West Virginia and Duquesne match 1-1 records in a 4 p.m. game at the Coliseum that will be televised by Root Sports.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins certainly remembers that loss to Duquesne. It was WVU's first to the Dukes in a decade and it came completely out of the blue. The Mountaineer had won three in a row at the time and seemed to be making up for a lack of shooting touch by defending and rebounding. They did neither as Duquesne rallied for a 60-56 win, generally by going against their nature.
"A year ago we thought they'd press and run up and down and they didn't,'' Huggins said. "They packed it in and it was obviously a smart thing to do because they won.''
In some ways, West Virginia faced the same problems against Virginia Tech last week that they faced against Duquesne last year. Once again, they shot the ball poorly and didn't make up for it by playing defense and rebounding. Both games were played in front of sparse crowds on the road, environments that should aid the visiting team.
Of course, any relationship between last year's game with Duquesne and today's rematch might be a stretch. Both teams have made over their rosters in significant fashion, and with good reason.
Duquesne actually scored a couple of fairly impressive wins last season, beating Temple and making that huge comeback against West Virginia. But those were about all the highlights the Dukes had. The Temple win was the only one in A10 play and there were but six other wins besides those two all season.
Probably in response to that 8-22 season, second-year coach Jim Ferry remade the Duquesne roster as dramatically as Huggins remade West Virginia's. The Mountaineers lost three seniors and saw five others transfer out. The Dukes lost two seniors, but seven others who had eligibility remaining are no longer with the team.
In fact, where West Virginia at least has five players who have played in the program, Duquesne has only three. One of those, senior forward Jerry Jones, has yet to play because of a suspension.
That leaves only sophomores Derrick Colter and Jeremiah Jones from the team that struggled through last season. Colter led the Dukes in both scoring (13.4) and assists (5.3) last season.
Don't get the idea, though, that Duquesne is inexperienced. The Dukes have three newcomers with Division I experience elsewhere and another from junior college.
The most productive of the bunch to date has been the junior college transfer, 5-foot-10 guard Tra'Vaughn White. White led all junior colleges in scoring last season (25.9) at Independence (Kan.) and has scored 20 and 18 points in Duquesne's first two games. Along with the 5-11 Colter, they form a rare sub-6-foot backcourt.
The other three transfers all have Division I experience:
Put them all together and it gives Duquesne a core of six experienced players, seven if the suspended Jerry Jones begins playing. The Dukes have also used a couple of freshmen for depth.
In the first two games of the season, Duquesne has beaten Abilene Christian (94-75) and lost to New Hampshire (84-81). Both were at home.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.