WVU basketball: Seton Hall's Hazell, Pope quite a duo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia goes up against one of the most effective and attached offensive duos in Big East Conference basketball tonight when the 25th-ranked Mountaineers play host to Seton Hall, guard Jeremy Hazell and forward Herb Pope.
Tipoff is at 7 (WCHS telecast in Charleston-Huntington).
Syracuse, with Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson, is the only other team with a scorer averaging at least 15 points per game and a teammate averaging double figures in points and rebounds in Big East games.
Hazell, who was shot by an attempted robbery assailant on Christmas Day and had a wrist injury previously, has played nine games and just six in Big East play. He's averaging 16.6 points in conference play and 19.1 overall.
Pope, who collapsed during an offseason workout and was hospitalized, is averaging 13.7 points and 10.2 rebounds in the Big East and 10.2 points and 9.2 rebounds overall.
Hazell shoots a lot, but in part because Pope rebounds so well. Pope rebounds so frequently because Hazell shoots so often.
Hazell scored 100 points in his first three games against WVU, but had only nine at the WVU Coliseum last February.
"You've got to watch him as soon as he steps over half court," WVU point guard Joe Mazzulla said. "You can't relax and you've got to attack him at all times and be alert.
"You've got to really force him into quick, one-dribble pull-ups. You've got to make him take bad shots. If he makes them, he makes them."
The 6-foot-5 senior has attempted 75 shots and 40 3-pointers in four games against WVU. The 6-foot-8 Pope is averaging 10 points and 10.5 rebounds in two games against WVU.
"If Hazell is going to be doing that, then we've got to control the other guys," Mazzulla said. "If he's going to take every shot and go for 40 points then we can't let Herb Pope get every rebound."
WVU's John Flowers will be assigned Hazell, although Mazzulla could get his chances, especially if Flowers is in foul trouble. Cam Thoroughman will be one of a few to combat Pope.
"(Pope) knows Hazell is going to shoot it and he probably knows where his misses are going because he's used to playing with him," Thoroughman said. "The really important thing about rebounding is having enough grit and toughness to get it and he's got that."
Pope, from Aliquippa, Pa., has six double-doubles this season and more offensive rebounds than anyone else in Big East games.
"He's got great hands, great anticipation and he pursues every ball, which is what great rebounders do," WVU Coach Bob Huggins said.
The Mountaineers (14-6, 5-3 Big East) have rebounded themselves and Saturday beat Cincinnati on its home floor - the Bearcats' first home loss this season. WVU lost at Louisville three days earlier on a layup with 4.5 seconds to go.
"They've played consistently very hard the past two games and tried to play the right way," Huggins said of his Mountaineers.
Those were the first two games without leading scorer Casey Mitchell and forward Dan Jennings. Mitchell was suspended Jan. 24 for violating team rules and Jennings left the team a day earlier against USF. Huggins said Mitchell won't play tonight.
Jennings, though, showed up at the Coliseum as Huggins met with reporters Tuesday. Huggins said Jennings was not back practicing with the team and had "no idea" why Jennings was at the WVU arena.
WVU is in a three-way tie for fourth place with Villanova and Connecticut. Villanova plays host to Marquette tonight, with Syracuse going to UConn. The Mountaineers visit Villanova on Saturday at noon.
The 12th-place Pirates (10-12, 4-6) have won two in a row and are playing better under first-year coach Kevin Willard. They beat Providence Saturday after the Friars beat Louisville and Villanova in succession. Seton Hall started its winning streak with a 90-68 win at Syracuse.
WVU has won six in a row in the series and the past five at the Coliseum.
"You go to Syracuse and win the way they've won, I don't care what anyone says, you're a good team," Huggins said. "They didn't just win. They won convincingly."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.