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UC gets West Liberty in basketball home opener

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston coach Dwaine Osborne is in for quite a home debut this afternoon.

The Golden Eagles (3-0) will play their home and Mountain East Conference opener against West Liberty (3-0) at 4 p.m. today at Eddie King Gym, marking Osborne's first appearance in front of the home crowd as UC's coach.

It will be a return to the site of West Liberty's only conference loss last year. The Hilltoppers have stormed out of the gate this season with three wins while averaging a cool 116 points in those contests, earning them a No. 3 spot in the NABC coaches poll.

UC is also undefeated, with each of the wins coming away from home.

While Osborne is happy with his team's success thus far, he admitted that trying to conquer the mighty Hilltoppers is a different challenge.

"Everybody is still trying to figure out how you play them because you can try to run with them or try to slow them down but not many teams have been able to slow them down a whole lot," Osborne said. "They have something they do well and a style that they play. They do a great job at executing their system. If we try to beat them at their game, they're going to have favorable odds."

The Hilltoppers always present a challenge in terms of style of play and especially tempo.

While UC hasn't seen anyone like West Liberty just yet this season, Osborne said the Golden Eagles have played three teams with completely different schemes, something he hopes pays off as the season stretches on.

"We've played three teams with three different styles, so that's been good for us," Osborne said. "This will be the fourth team with the fourth different style of play that we've seen. We've played three really good teams up to this point, but I also think what we're going to face in West Liberty is another level."

It's tough to argue, what with West Liberty entering today with six players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Cedric Harris at 18.3 points and 7.3 assists per game.

Keene Cockburn (16.0), Seger Bonifant (15.0), C.J. Hester (14.3), Kelvin Goodwin (11.7), and Devin Hoehn (10.7) are also scoring in double figures.

UC boasts just one double-digit scorer in Xavier Humphrey at 16.7 points per game.

Those numbers are skewed a bit by differences in philosophy as the run-and-gun Hilltoppers are giving up 83.67 points per contest and UC just 61.33.

No matter the statistics, what Osborne sees in his opening game at Eddie King Gym may very well be the stiffest challenge his team faces all season, but he for one is ready.

"We get the [No. 3-ranked] team in our home opener - it is what it is," Osborne said. "We're looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge that they're going to present us and I'm looking forward to see how our team responds."

State hosts Wheeling Jesuit

While West Virginia State got a win in its season opener Wednesday in Institute, it sure left a lot to be desired for Yellow Jackets coach Bryan Poore.

State fought back for a tough 86-83 win over Bluefield State after trailing the vast majority of the game.

"I think that was us making plays, playing harder and going after the ball," Poore said. "Our backs were against the wall. The first half I felt like we were trying to make SportsCenter plays. A lot of one-on-one."

While it's tough to be upset with a win, Poore knows he will have to get much better efforts from his squad the rest of the way to stay competitive in the MEC. The conference slate starts today for State as it hosts Wheeling Jesuit at 4 p.m.

The Cardinals lost their season opener 97-66 to Findlay on Monday, but Poore said his team will have to play a much better game to handle Jesuit.

"We've gotta try to clean it up and understand what we're trying to do because Wheeling is going to be a handful," Poore said. "We're not all on the same page yet."

Tourney time for TechWVU Tech began a three-game stretch of tournament games in the Barber Scotia Shootout Friday night in Concord, N.C., with a 77-62 win over the host Sabres (0-7).

Armond Perez led the Golden Bears with 16 points followed by Brandon Burgraff with 15 and Jauries Thomas with 14.

Friday's win has Tech off to a 7-1 mark with a game against Newport News Apprentice School scheduled for 4:30 today.

While this weekend's games will be important, the experience in playing under such a format could pay dividends down the road for the Golden Bears.

 "They're pretty good teams,'' Tech coach Bob Williams said. "It's good for us because at the end of the year, for us to win our AII tournament down in Atlanta, we might have to win three days in a row, so it's good for us to play three days in a row in that tournament.''

The tournament begins a brutal stretch of games for Tech as it plays Fairmont State, NCAA Division I Longwood, Bellarmine and some former Mid-South Conference opponents the rest of the way.

"After [the tournament], the schedule gets really tough,'' Williams said. "We've got some tough games in December and most of them are on the road.''

Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@wvgazette.com">ryan.pritt@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.


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