WVU takes on 18th ranked Notre Dame

West Virginia is coming off a big win against rival Pittsburgh in what could have been the final Backyard Brawl.  Now the Mountaineers head to South Bend, Indiana to take on the Fighting Irish.  The last time these two teams met, Notre Dame barely won by the score of 55-51.  The Mountaineers will be looking to beat the Fighting Irish in their home arena on Wednesday.

In their last meeting, Notre Dame was unranked, but after an eight game winning streak which included wins over 19th UCONN, at the time and 15th ranked Marquette they are now sitting comfortably at the 18th spot in the rankings.  West Virginia will definitely have their work cut out for them since the last time these two teams played.  In their last meeting; Kevin Jones, Deniz Kilicli and Jabarie Hinds were the only three players who contributed heavily on offense.  Truck Bryant had been struggling during the time, but stormed back against Pittsburgh last week coming off the bench and dropping 15 points.  Bryant will have to play just as well in this game to prove to Coach Huggins that he is an effective starter. 

Jabarie Hinds was the top scorer in the last matchup and he will definitely need to be a factor in this game if the Mountaineers want to slow down this hot Notre Dame team.  Hinds has without a doubt been an underrated player on this Mountaineer team; while he is only averaging 8.1 points per game he has been a major contributor on offense and defense.  He has been great at racking up assists and steals.  Jones will need to be his usual self in order to keep the Mountaineers from getting too far behind in this one.  In the last meeting he had 14 points and 12 rebounds and since then he has had two monster games, scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the loss to Louisville and dropping 16 points and recording 13 rebounds in the win against Pittsburgh.  Kilicli has been another player on a tear recently.  In the last two games he has been in double figures for scoring and has been a beast at snagging rebounds.

On the defensive side of the ball West Virginia did quite well last time by casuing Notre Dame to turn the ball over five times.  Unfortunately, they only had one steal from Hinds and no blocks.  The Mountaineers have to cause more turnovers and be more aggressive on defense if they want to come away with some easy fast break points.  In their last two games the Mountaineers caused their opponents to turn over the ball over a combined 25 times and they will need to keep this trend going if they want to keep the Fighting Irish off balance.  West Virginia also has to get better at swatting the ball and challenging the shot more, to show Notre Dame that won’t just roll over and die when they enter the arena.

Players the Mountaineers must keep tabs on are sophomore guard Jerian Grant and sophomore guard Eric Atkins.  These are the top two scorers for the Fighting Irish and they need to be taken seriously if the Mountaineers hope to slow them down.  Luckily, for the Mountaineers they don’t have to face Tim Abromaitis who is out for the season with a torn ACL. 

Grant has been averaging 12.9 ppg, while Atkins has been averaging 13 ppg.  Both had decent stats in the last matchup with Grant dropping 12 points and hauling in two rebounds while also recording three assists and one block.  Atkins had 7 points with 4 rebounds with one steal and one assist.  The Mountaineers have faced these two before and will need to contest every shot they take in order to make them force shots or turn the ball over.       

Many people say that Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center is a tough place to play,  but home court advantage doesn't mean anything.  The Mountaineers have struggled on the road this year, but they seem to be pulling together as a team and will be looking to surprise many Notre Dame fans.

The Mountaineers can't fall back into old patterns and only have a few players have big games while the rest don't do anything.  The way they played against Pittsburgh is how they will have to play this game only they will have to step it up a notch.  Another interesting fact is that the West Virginia Women’s basketball team beat Notre Dame at home, so why can’t the men do it too?   

Prediction:  WVU-65  Notre Dame-60

Player of the Game: Deniz Kilicli 20 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks

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