West Virginia-Syracuse Preview
The third-ranked Orange put their 17-game home win streak on the line Saturday when they take on the Mountaineers, who boast the conference's top scorer and rebounder in Jones.
Syracuse (21-1, 8-1) leads the Big East by 1 1/2 games over No. 9 Georgetown and No. 17 Marquette. The Orange lead the conference in scoring (78.0 ppg), field-goal percentage (47.9), and blocks (7.4 per game).
"They're terrific," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "They score so much off their defense and it's like they're constantly running downhill on you."
West Virginia (15-6, 5-3) has lost its last nine games at the Carrier Dome, and 12 of the last 13 meetings overall. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim still doesn't look at this as an easy matchup.
"West Virginia is always a tough game, and we know that," Boeheim said.
The Mountaineers should be dangerous the way Jones is playing. Huggins has called him the "most valuable player in the country," and Jones averages 20.9 points and 11.6 rebounds.
"He's having a great year," Boeheim said. "He's scoring, rebounding, a very good defensive player. He's probably having as good a year or better year than anybody in the league this year."
Jones, however, hasn't been able to lift West Virginia to a win over the Orange in his career. The senior forward has struggled in all four contests, averaging 5.8 points on 29.6 percent shooting and totaling 20 rebounds. Barring a meeting in the Big East or NCAA tournaments, this will be his last shot.
Jones is among the nation's leaders with 14 double-doubles after he had 26 points and 14 rebounds and played the entire game Wednesday in a 78-62 loss at St. John's. The rest of the Mountaineers didn't provide much support by shooting 29.5 percent.
"For whatever reason, (we) just weren't all that excited about playing, I don't think," Huggins said. "I don't know, you get so many young guys, the season seems longer for them than what it really is."
Truck Bryant had 16 points on 4-of-13 shooting. He's shooting 27.0 percent over his last five games, and is another senior who is 0-4 against the Orange with poor numbers (10.3 ppg, 34.4 FG percent).
Boeheim remains wary of Bryant's skill and experience.
"He's been a good player since he got there," said Boeheim. "He started right out doing good things and he's continued doing good things. He's been one of the best backcourt players in the league over an extended period of time now."
The Orange expect to play a third straight game without top rebounder Fab Melo, out because of an apparent academic issue. C.J. Fair has started the last two contests, totaling 12 points and 10 boards.
The player to watch Saturday for Syracuse could be Brandon Triche. The junior guard is averaging 18.0 points on 65.0 percent shooting in two career games against the Mountaineers.