Men’s Basketball: WVU vs. Notre Dame Preview - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Men’s Basketball: WVU vs. Notre Dame Preview

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MORGANTOWN -

Truck Bryant's three-pointer led West Virginia to a much-needed win over Providence Sunday afternoon. It gave the team an elusive Big East road win, and more importantly, ended a three-game losing streak.

There is so much more work to do before the end of the season, though. That includes Wednesday night when Notre Dame (15-8, 7-3) brings its four-game winning streak to Morgantown.

On January 16, the Fighting Irish lost a road contest to Rutgers. At that point, they sat just 11-8 overall on the season and 3-3 in the Big East. But since then, this team hasn't lost a game, and that streak has come with some pretty impressive wins.

Of course, there was the upset of top-ranked Syracuse at home that helped this team take off, but the Irish have defeated two more ranked teams in that span, including a road win over Connecticut.

West Virginia's season was moving in the opposite direction before the overtime win on Sunday. The Mountaineers (16-8, 6-5) had lost three in a row, all in conference play, and saw their home winning streak come to an end. It was the first time WVU had lost three games in a row under Bob Huggins.

With each of these teams having some forgettable stretches during this season, they both find themselves trying to impress the country, most notably the selection committee, on their way to an NCAA Tournament bid. That means there won't be much room for error, and that makes Wednesday night's matchup all the more compelling.

Notre Dame doesn't have a player that is putting up any sort of ridiculous numbers this season, and the player that was considered to be the team's best coming into the season, Tim Abromaitis, was lost for the season after just two games.

Eric Atkins is the leader for the Irish among active players with 13.1 points per game, while Jerian Grant adds 12.7 and Jack Cooley puts up 10.6. Cooley also leads the team with 8.4 rebounds.

It's not the offense that has Notre Dame at 7-3 right now, though. In fact, the Irish are the lowest-scoring team in the Big East in conference games. The defense, on the other hand, has been the best, giving up just 58.3 points per game.

That defense will have its hands full when it takes on Kevin Jones, who very well could be the front-runner for Big East Player of the Year. Jones has been leading the conference in scoring (20.8 points per game) and rebounding (11.2 per game) for almost the entire season, and he's shown no signs of slowing down. Jones has scored at least 20 points in each of the last nine games.

The Mountaineers have still found ways to lose in recent games. That is Bryant steps up and has a big game. That was the case against Providence when the senior not only hit the game winner in overtime, but had 32 points for the game. When he puts up those types of numbers, West Virginia becomes a much better team.

WVU will also look to its only other upper classmen, Deniz Kilicli, especially now that two of his backups have been lost for the season. Kevin Noreen and Pat Forsythe had been getting some quality minutes, but now Kilicli and Dominique Rutledge are Bob Huggins' only two options when it comes to big men inside. Kilicli has 11 points per game, and had an impressive game against Providence with 22, a career-high.

West Virginia will need these players to continue to play the way they have been for most of the season, but at least one of the team's freshmen has to help out, too. There was very little scoring from those players on Sunday, and it allowed the Friars to make the game close.

Against a team as hot as Notre Dame, that kind of performance won't be good enough for a win. Wednesday's game is a late start, 9 p.m., and will be available on ESPNU.

 

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