www.charlestondailymail.com WVU Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers West Virginia edges Marshall, 3-2, in baseball http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150421/DM03/150429774 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150421/DM03/150429774 Tue, 21 Apr 2015 23:19:26 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Baseball is a game of ruts and rallies that continues to trick and treat West Virginia. The Mountaineers saw one pattern come to an end and another habit extended in a 3-2 win against Marshall.

"Maybe it's human nature. Maybe I'm not old enough and mature enough to figure it out," said WVU coach Randy Mazey, who improved to 5-3 at new Monongalia County Ballpark before a crowd of 639. "I'm only 48 years old. Maybe after another 20 or so years the answer will come to me in a dream."

Shortstop Taylor Munden, whose batting average was 41 points higher two weeks ago than it was before the first pitch against the Thundering Herd, had his first home run and first multi-hit game since the venue opened eight games ago. Munden sat one game and moved from the leadoff spot to the second spot in the batting order but was never worried.

"It's part of the game to struggle," he said. "I try to do my best to stay in there and keep my emotions intact and keep playing my game."

The senior went 2 for 4 and scored two runs after seeing his average dip to .276. His home run in the third inning tied the score 1-1 and his leadoff single in the bottom of the eighth off Marshall's Kolin Stanley (2-1) turned into the game-winning run. Munden stole second base and took third on a ground out. Ray Guerrini was intentionally walked, and Brad Johnson drew a walk to prompt a pitching change. Marshall's Matt Margaritonda struck out Caleb Potter but walked K.C. Huth to score Munden.

WVU's Blake Smith entered in the ninth and retired the side in order for his fourth save.

The Mountaineers (23-15) lost two of three over the weekend against Oklahoma, which shares the Big 12 lead with Oklahoma State, for their first series loss in the past four. Beating the Thundering Herd (13-26) snapped a two-game losing streak on Tuesdays and improved WVU's record to 4-2 in Tuesday games.

The mid-week games are meaningful occasions for a team with plenty of weekend opportunities left in Big 12 play to reach the NCAA tournament for the fist time since 1996. Counting the first six and remaining three Tuesday games, WVU will play only one team with a winning record - and WVU won its only Wednesday game, that against sub-.500 Texas-Arlington. The final three Tuesday games are next week against Marshall in Charleston, at Virginia Tech and at Pitt, teams 13, 10 and two games below .500.

"If you're trying to make the postseason and get an at-large bid, if you're ever in a position to do that, you can't lose mid-week game at home to teams under .500," Mazey said. "As much as you sometimes don't think these game are as important as the weekend games, they certainly are. Losing to teams with records under .500, especially at home, can really, really cost you when it comes to an at-large bid. You've got to try to win every one of them."

WVU's RPI was No. 67 on Tuesday and the strength of schedule was No. 133. Winning on Tuesdays won't help the strength of schedule, but losses can damage the RPI. The back-to-back Tuesday losses were one concern for Mazey, though one was a 12-7 loss at No. 21 Maryland. The way the Mountaineers started against Marshall continued the frustrations he shared during and after last Tuesday's loss to Penn State, which was 10-20 before the game.

"For whatever reason, we haven't been coming out too strong at all for these games," Munden said. "The weekend games, we come out like little kids in candy stores, but when we come out on Tuesdays, it's clear we're way more down than we ought to be."

Tuesday pitching has been iffy for Mazey. He still hasn't had a starter last more than 4 1/3 innings, and he's had to use four, four, three, four, two and three relievers. That's somewhat by design. Shane Ennis, who has started the past four Tuesday games, went three innings against Marshall and allowed one unearned run. That lowered the ERA for Tuesday starters to 4.90. The overall ERA on Tuesdays is 3.91, though both totals are inflated by the 12 earned runs allowed to the Terrapins.

Ennis retired the final six batters he faced, the last three on strike outs, and Adam Keller (1-1) allowed one unearned run and struck out four in two innings of relief. Keller, who started a Tuesday game at Stephen F. Austin and allowed two earned runs in four innings, hasn't allowed a run in his past 5 2/3 innings of Tuesday relief. Jeff Hardy handled the seventh and eighth innings and struck out four of the seven batters he faced.

It was an encouraging day for Mazey, who has moved B.J. Myers from starting or relieving on Tuesdays to starting on Fridays in Big 12 series. Those weekend games are even more vital now because WVU is one game out of ninth place in the nine-team conference standings. The top eight qualify, and WVU plays host to last-place Kansas for three games this weekend.

"Those guys who pitched (Tuesday), our conference weekends are so important to us that we can't throw anybody in the middle of the week and jeopardize their ability to pitch on the weekend," Mazey said. "We tried to get everyone out of there in less than 50 pitches, and now they have three days until they pitch again. Ennis, Keller, Hardy and Smith are all guys we need to be available Friday, and I think we accomplished that."

Marshall was in a similar spot against WVU. It's won two out of three in consecutive series to rise to ninth place in the Conference USA standings and sit two games out of eighth. The conference tournament accepts eight teams, and the Thundering Herd plays host to league-leading Middle Tennessee State this weekend.

"These are hard because obviously it's a big game for both of us, but both teams are fighting to get in their tournament," Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said. "They've got a big series against Kansas and we've got a big series against Middle Tennessee State. We've both got to do our best to manage things so we don't burn anybody out and so we're able to bring them back out for the weekend."

Marshall's Josh King, who pitched in relief in nine games this season, made his first start. Mazey believed his players were fooled by King's 10.32 ERA. He allowed two runs on three hits and struck out five in 5 1/3 innings.

"He's coming back from Tommy John surgery, and he's thrown a few innings out of the bullpen as we try to get him back to where he was," Waggoner said. "His velocity was a little down, but it was good to see him command his fastball. But for a senior who's a really good pitcher, he made a couple bad expansion pitches when he needed to get the ball out off the plate more."

King's only trouble came in the third when he left a 0-2 fastball too close to the plate and saw WVU freshman Kyle Davis rope it over the wall in left field for his fourth home run. That followed Munden's home run on a 1-0 pitch, his team-leading ninth home run and first since the Maryland game. Munden was the first player to get a base hit in the new ballpark but was 1 for 27 between that single against Butler and Tuesday's home run.

"That's part of the game," Munden said. "I've been hitting balls hard at people, but I knew it would come."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecaszza

]]>
WVU defense poised to take step under second-year coordinator http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150421/DM03/150429775 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150421/DM03/150429775 Tue, 21 Apr 2015 23:17:52 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - For all the manners in which Tony Gibson has been celebrated in his 15 months as West Virginia's defensive coordinator, be it the praise for restoring the 3-3-5, the cheers for the giving that familiar look an attacking personality or the raise he received in the offseason, this remains true: Gibson's first defense ranked in the bottom half of the four major defensive categories.

WVU finished the 2014 season ranked No. 66 in total defense, No. 72 in scoring defense, No. 71 in pass defense and No. 63 in rushing defense. The NCAA counts 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Yet Gibson was given a new three-year contract in December worth $2.1 million, and there never seemed to be any doubt it was worth the time and finances needed to put it together.

"We're in a position defensively that's unlike any I've been in in my five years here," said coach Dana Holgorsen, who for the first time has the same defensive coordinator in back-to-back seasons. "That should mean improvement and that should mean the best defense we've had here. I like where we're at. It's taken a lot of time to get to this point."

A lot of time and a lot of suffering, to be sure. In 2012, WVU was No. 108 in total defense, No. 114 in scoring defense, No. 118 in passing defense and No. 60 in rushing defense. A year later, WVU ranked No. 101 overall, No. 99 in scoring, No. 106 against he pass and No. 90 against the run.

That all happened in the Big 12, a league that's so offensive it bends the best defenses and warps their rankings. Gibson not only changed the formation on defense, but he shifted the focus. He understood teams will score points and accumulate yards, so he planted different measuring sticks.

The Mountaineers finished No. 9 in third down defense and only let opponents convert 31.4 percent of the time, way down from 42.7 percent in 2013 and 45.6 percent in 2012. That helped WVU finish No. 55 in first downs allowed, and the combination gave Holgorsen's offense more opportunities on the way to finishing No. 12 in yards per game, No. 9 in passing yards per game and No. 34 in points per game.

Now Gibson is getting ready for his second trip through a league that hadn't seen this incarnation of the obscure odd stack, one he made more unusual with his heavy dose of blitzing.

"Are we going to be able to do it again?" Gibson said. "Maybe this defense was such a shock to everyone the first year. Are they going to catch up to it? I don't know."

What Gibson does know is he doesn't rely solely on gimmicks. There's more to his expectations for success than quirky formations, bizarre angles and plenty of pressure.

"We have talent," he said.

This spring, which has just one more practice before Saturday's Gold-Blue Game, hasn't been about introducing that talent. Gibson and his staff have been polishing with very few exceptions, most of which are explained by injuries and a suspension. He believes the continuity will combat familiarity.

"Now we're going into it having seen what they're going to do," Gibson said. "It's a lot easier for us to game plan it going in because right off the bat we can say, 'Here's what they're going to do. Here's how they're going to block us. Here's what we're expecting.' We'll be a year better with all that stuff now."

The defensive line remains short of bodies and willing to welcome additions. Nose guard Kyle Rose was held out for a week after an arrest, but junior Darrien Howard and redshirt freshman Jaleel Fields filled in while Noble Nwachukwu, a returning starter, and Christian Brown are able players outside. Junior college transfer Larry Jefferson might be the only freshman or junior college transfer to find a spot, and he's been promising during his spring debut at defensive end.

The Mountaineers are loaded at linebacker to the point Nick Kwiatkoski, who led the team with 103 tackles last season, was moved from the middle to the outside Sam linebacker position. Jared Barber, who missed last season after tearing his right ACL late in the 2013 season, is now in the middle. He made 71 tackles in 2013. Senior Shaq Petteway has remained healthy for a year now and is the starter at the outside Will position, and Gibson, who coaches the linebackers, trusts backups at each spot.

The secondary has been trickier to figure out because of health. Cornerback Daryl Worley, the best WVU has there, is out for the spring following shoulder surgery. Jaylon Myers, who was limited last season as he hurried through a late arrival and the transition from junior college, has missed time with an illness. Starter Terrell Chestnut and senior Ricky Rumph have played the most.

There's one surprise at safety, but it underscores the benefits of the talent Gibson now has. K.J. Dillon is the starter at spur and Karl Joseph is the starter at bandit, but at free safety, there's a battle between Dravon Henry and junior Jeremy Tyler. Henry started every game last season was named to ESPN.com's true freshman all-America team. Tyler played 59 snaps, but has made a charge during his second spring and before his third year in the program, which is when WVU would like to begin to rely on players.

A two-deep depth chart that features players like Worley and safety Jarrod Harper, who is also out for the spring, has 16 players who are at least three years into the WVU experience and two seasons deep with Gibson. It's one reason Gibson believes he won't have done his job if this defense doesn't excel.

"I wouldn't want it any other way, I really wouldn't," he said. "We have 10 starters coming back and plenty of guys who have played. I want to use it as motivation for our kids. Are we going to shut everybody out? No. Are we going to be the No. 1 defense in the country? Probably not. But we have 50 guys on defense who all believe in the same thing and five coaches on defense who all believe in the same thing. That's a recipe for greatness."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
Marshall visits WVU, new baseball stadium Tuesday http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150420/DM03/150429883 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150420/DM03/150429883 Mon, 20 Apr 2015 23:11:33 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The recent upturn in the Marshall baseball team’s fortunes have a bit to do with the body and a bit to do with the mind. The Thundering Herd is on one of its better streaks of a tough season, and things are looking up for the Herd at an opportune time.

Marshall heads north Tuesday to face West Virginia at 4 p.m. at Monongalia County Ballpark. It’s the first of two games the Herd and Mountaineers will play this season, the second coming at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 28 at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston.

The Herd (13-25, 6-12 Conference USA) fell to Old Dominion in its last game, 6-2, but not before taking the first two games of that series. It was the second straight three-game series Marshall has captured, the first time the Herd has done that this year. Marshall hadn’t taken a three-game series prior to that since winning two of three from George Mason on March 7-8.

Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said improved health was a key component in that bounce.

“Our Friday (pitcher) Chase Boster has been back,” Waggoner said. “He’s been out most of the season and he’s thrown really well his last two Friday nights. Getting him back has been really big.”

Boster threw six innings in a 5-1 win over Charlotte on April 10, then threw a career-high 8 1/3 innings in a 6-1 win Friday over Old Dominion. The junior’s return has helped spark another aspect of Marshall’s rebound, its confidence.

“Like anything else in the game, you string together some hits, get some great at-bats and your offense starts to grow,” Waggoner said. “You get good starting pitching to go late in the game, that’s going to help you not max out your bullpen and give you opportunities to win.”

Sandwiching a loss at Akron between those two series, Marshall has won four of its last seven games. That hadn’t happened for the Herd since it won four of seven from Feb. 27 to March 8.

The Herd batted .323 over those seven games to raise its season average to a middle-of-the-C-USA-pack .272. Junior infielder Aaron Bossi leads Marshall, and is third in the conference, with a .375 batting average. A utility infielder, he had started five games at catcher and three at designated hitter before starting the last eight at second base.

Marshall’s pitching is an issue, despite holding the Monarchs to a single run in both of the Herd’s wins this past weekend. Marshall still sits next to last in Conference USA in earned run average, at 5.04. That’s not a good thing with the high-powered Mountaineers lineup looming.

WVU leads the Big 12 in slugging percentage (.431) and home runs (37). The Mountaineers sport the league’s No. 2 hitter — Kyle Davis with a .368 average — and top home run hitter — Taylor Munden with eight.

Waggoner said hitting isn’t WVU’s only strong suit.

“Their pitching staff pitches down in the zone,” Waggoner said. “(WVU coach Randy) Mazey does a good job with those guys. They play good defense and they pitch. Those two things, keeping the ball down and playing good defense, will help you win a lot of games.”

West Virginia (22-15, 5-7 Big 12) has slumped a bit in its last four, losing three of them. After falling to Penn State last Tuesday, the Mountaineers lost two of three at home to then-No. 23 Oklahoma. The last loss was a 10-2 setback where the Sooners scored nine unanswered runs over the fifth and sixth innings.

As much as the Herd awaits Tuesday’s game at WVU, the team has to temper that excitement with the knowledge that a crucial conference series with C-USA leader Middle Tennessee starts Friday. The Mountaineers will host a series with Big 12 foe Kansas on Friday as well.

“Both teams are trying to fight to get into the (conference) tournament, and that’s the important part,” Waggoner said. “You’re balancing your pitching, knowing you’ve got an important weekend series coming up. Even though this is a big game for us, the bigger prize is conference play, and (Mazey) will tell you the same thing.”

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

]]>
Chuck McGill: WVU's Tall: 'This is what I'm supposed to be' http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150420/DM03/150429884 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150420/DM03/150429884 Mon, 20 Apr 2015 23:11:19 -0400 By Chuck McGill MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bruce Tall’s path back to West Virginia University, through 34 seasons of coaching college football at eight different schools, was set in motion during his adolescence.

Tall’s football coach at Shaker Heights (Ohio) High School would let the teenager into an office in an all-brick building with no windows to watch video tape of football. Tall was a sponge, and he wanted to learn. Not in the same way as his older brother, who is an orthopedic surgeon. Not in the same way as his other brothers, two of whom are lawyers and another who is an educator who attended medical school.

“They’re real cerebral-type guys,” Tall said.

So is Tall, but he didn’t study textbooks. Tall’s girlfriend would tag along with him to the coach’s office, where there was no supervision, a girl, a cot, a television and football videos.

“My coach would let me go in there with the girl I’d be with and he’d know nothing was going to happen,” Tall remembered. “There’d be a bed right there and he knew she better not talk to me while I was watching that film. I should’ve known right then I was messed up, that the coach wouldn’t blink twice about that.

“That’s how messed up I was.”

Love can push a person to do crazy things, and Tall has always been in head over cleats about football. His father scoffed at the notion that a person could spend their lives coaching a sport, as the 55-year-old Tall has done since he started as a graduate assistant at Ohio Wesleyan in 1982.

But Tall listens when his mother tells people that she guarantees he is her happiest son.

“I knew in junior high I was going to be a coach,” Tall said. “I was always attracted to sports and the people I enjoyed talking to most was coaches. I was more comfortable with them than the academic setting, and I come from a real educated family.”

Tall is back in Morgantown after coach Dana Holgorsen hired him as the defensive line coach in January. It is Tall’s second tour with the Mountaineers. He coached here five seasons, from 2003-07, under then-coach Rich Rodriguez. WVU won 48 games in those five seasons, captured four conference championships and finished in the top 10 in three seasons.

In a career that started on a tiny Delaware, Ohio-based campus, Tall worked first at Ohio Wesleyan, then Cornell, Northeastern, Harvard, Western Michigan, WVU, Michigan and Charlotte. He has never left the eastern time zone, however, because he has never been one to hunt jobs and has always kept his family in mind.

“I’ve never been a guy who wants to move a lot,” Tall said. “It’s ironic that I’ve moved a lot. I just try to evaluate every situation that comes up. It’s been more that I’ve been contacted than I’ve contacted looking for jobs. This seems like the right time to do it. The way college football is going now with the separation of the power five or however you want to put it, this is the atmosphere to be at because you want to be coaching at the highest level you can.”

Tall has stayed around his WVU connections since he left for Michigan with Rodriguez. After Rodriguez was fired, Tall landed at Charlotte with former Mountaineers assistant Jeff Mullen. It was Tall’s relationship with West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson that helped lure Tall back to Morgantown three months ago. They worked together on Rodriguez’s defensive staff at WVU.

“I wasn’t looking,” Tall said. “I wasn’t on the boards like people do. That’s not my style. But when an opportunity like this comes up, you can’t pass it up.”

Tall has a son at East Carolina, a daughter at West Virginia Wesleyan and another daughter awaiting graduation from Cannon, a private school near Charlotte. That makes for the perfect timing for a coach like Tall to move back to a place who has embraced him.

“People celebrate you in Morgantown,” Tall said. “Other people tolerate you.”

Spring football drills, which culminate this Saturday with the annual Gold-Blue spring game, and a new group of defensive linemen provided Tall with the opportunity to do what he loves — coach and learn. He is discovering more about his players with each practice, and he has plenty of excuses to slip into a room and watch tape until his heart’s content.

“I enjoy what I do,” he said. “You’re supposed to be a doctor, you’re supposed to be a lawyer. I always wanted to be a coach, so this is what I’m supposed to be.”

]]>
Hard work propels WVU sophomore linebacker Preston http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150420/DM03/150429885 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150420/DM03/150429885 Mon, 20 Apr 2015 23:11:17 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - To most, it would seem like the smallest sample imaginable, a single play that was not merely the first of a season, but the first of Xavier Preston's career. To Preston, it's the biggest window available to look through and see his future at West Virginia, one that's evolved this spring to feature a position change for the sophomore linebacker.

The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Preston was new to college last August, never mind college football, when the Mountaineers took on No. 2 Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. He arrived 11 weeks earlier as a freshman from Jensen Beach, Fla., and squeezed in some summer workouts and summer courses before making his mark during preseason practice.

"It was my effort," he said. "I faced a lot of new things and was really just learning as a freshman. It was a lot different than high school, but I had to adjust and man up and play the game."

Even in his early stages, Preston's habit was hard work. He was like so many others new to the team and made mistakes, but his were faster, sharper and, in a way, more encouraging. He wasn't lost at the Will position behind Brandon Golson and a few others, and he found ways to take what he was taught and show it on the field. Newcomers struggle with the speed of the college game, and Preston is the first to admit he was no different, but his errors were made trying to make plays.

Preston was going in the right direction, and it wasn't long before he sacked the idea of redshirting his first season on campus, but he didn't stop there. He not only earned a spot on the travel squad and the right to be in uniform in Atlanta for one of the opening weekend's showcase games, but the Mountaineers had a specific role in mind for Preston. He was part of a package designed to protect the goal line.

"I was supposed to come downhill and make a play," he said. "I got there, but I ended up in the end zone."

WVU's coaches spent the summer months watching Alabama and tracking tendencies, and one result was a hunch the Crimson Tide would show a certain set with specific personnel when they neared the end zone. The Mountaineers built in ways to defend a few plays, and one idea positioned Preston so he'd meet the running back before the goal line.

Sure enough, the game was tied 10-10 late in the first half and Alabama was at WVU's 1-yard line. A shout on the sideline paged the players from the goal line package and Preston hurried onto the field for his college debut.

"It was an experience to remember," he said. "I'll always remember that, but once I got out there, I had to think. I had a job to do and I had to execute."

Preston did just about everything right. He avoided being blocked and confronted T.J. Yeldon at the goal line. Yeldon won, though, and pushed through into the end zone. That was Preston's one and only play in the game, leaving him with nothing else to think about at the end. He sat in his seat on the team's plane, feeling low following the loss, feeling tired as he readied for his first late-night flight back to campus, and he would not relax.

"I replayed it all the way until the flight took off," he said. "I'd press play and watch and then rewind it to see what else I could do. How fast did I get there? What do I have to try to improve?"

Now Preston was really disappointed. He watched his feet and was mad about the steps he'd taken. They weren't as quick and as certain as they were in practice. A lean inside when he knew he should have been headed the other way cost him tenths of a second. Those little details loomed large and he knew that's why he wasn't able to stop Yeldon.

This was a cruel lesson about what he needed to do and how he needed to think from that point forward.

"It doesn't get easier, but it does allow you to have some form of knowledge from previous performances," he said. "Just knowing I've been out there in certain situations helps you out when the next situation comes. You know what's coming and it allows you to progress from there."

The coaches weren't discouraged. Coach Dana Holgorsen almost praised Preston three days after the defeat.

"He took one snap and he had one heck of a tackle - it was just in the end zone, so they counted it as a touchdown," Holgorsen said. "It looked like he had good pop and he butted the guy up. He will continue to get more reps. He's going to be a good player."

Preston and safety Dravon Henry were the only true freshmen to play on offense or defense last season. Henry started every game at free safety and was named freshman all-America by ESPN.com. Preston didn't rise quite as fast. He played 15 snaps a week later in a 54-0 win against Towson, "but I dropped a pick," he said.

Preston didn't travel the following week when WVU played at Maryland but did make the remaining road trips. He only played special teams in his final seven games, but he's now been through the winter conditioning and most of spring practice for the first time. He's also now the backup at the Sam linebacker position behind Nick Kwiatkoski, a player the coaches admit they used too often in the middle last season and would like to spell at times this season.

"The harder I work, the more people will notice me," he said. "Anything is a possibility."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
WVU drops series to No. 23 Oklahoma http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150419/DM03/150419204 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150419/DM03/150419204 Sun, 19 Apr 2015 21:53:15 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

GRANVILLE, W.Va. - The West Virginia University baseball team fell 10-2 to No. 23 Oklahoma on Sunday afternoon at Monongalia County Ballpark, dropping the season series.

West Virginia (22-15, 5-7 Big 12) scored two runs on six hits with two errors, while Oklahoma (26-16, 10-5 Big 12) plated 10 runs on 15 hits with two errors.

Sophomore right-hander Chad Donato (5-4) was never able to get settled in and took the loss in 5.2 innings. He gave up 10 runs, nine earned, on 11 hits with four strikeouts and five walks.

Sophomore second baseman Kyle Davis had two of the West Virginia's six hits, his 20th multi-hit game of the season.

Oklahoma jumped out to a lead in the first inning for the second-straight day with a two-out rally. Craig Aikin doubled to left center field and scored to give the Sooners a 1-0 lead on a single to center field by Anthony Hermelyn.

West Virginia took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first when it had the bases loaded and sophomore right fielder Shaun Wood hit a ground ball that the Oklahoma second baseman misplayed to allow two runs to score.

The Sooners broke the game open with five runs on four hits to take a 6-2 lead in the top of the fifth. Seven-straight batters reached base as Aikin, Hermelyn, Sheldon Neuse and Hunter Haley all drove in runs for Oklahoma.

Tasin (7-1) picked up the victory after only giving up two runs, none earned, on six hits with one strikeout and three walks in 7.2 innings.

West Virginia returns to action with a midweek game against Marshall on Tuesday, April 21, at Monongalia County Ballpark. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.

]]>
Guard from Brooklyn signs with WVU http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150416/DM03/150419368 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150416/DM03/150419368 Thu, 16 Apr 2015 22:15:23 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University basketball men's basketball coach Bob Huggins has announced the signing of Teyvon Myers to a national letter of intent for the 2015-16 academic year.

Myers, a 6-foot-2 guard from Brooklyn, New York, currently attends Williston State College in Williston, North Dakota. He will have two years of eligibility remaining.

"Teyvon brings us much-needed offense as the leading scorer in junior college this past season with his ability to score in a multitude of ways," Huggins said. "He's accustomed to playing the pressing, up-and-down style that we want to play. It should shorten the timeline in his understanding of what we want done on both ends of the court. Teyvon gives us another ball-handler in the backcourt who can play both the point guard and wing positions."

Myers was the leading scorer in junior college at 25.0 points per game on 45.4 percent shooting from the field in 2014-15. He shot 36.7 percent (77-of-210) from 3-point range and 85.2 percent (195-of-229) from the free throw line. Myers averaged four rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, and recorded 46 steals in 30 games.

Myers reached double figures in every game and had a season-high 55 points in a triple-overtime game at North Dakota State College of Science. He had 22 games of 20 points or more and seven games with 30 or more points.

Playing for coach Cory Fehringer at Williston, Myers started 28 of 30 contests and led Williston to a school-record 25 regular season wins and a national ranking of No. 14. He was named an honorable mention All-American by the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and was tabbed to the Region 13 Division I NJCAA All-Region Team.

Myers previously attended Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California, where he averaged 26.5 points per game. He shot 44.1 percent from the field, 37.0 percent (44-of-119) from 3-point range and 84.0 percent (131-of-156) from the free throw line. Myers attended high school at Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda, California and Boys & Girls High School in New York City.

Myers joins Esa Ahmad, a 6-foot-8 forward from Shaker Heights, Ohio, and James "Beetle" Bolden, a 6-foot guard from Covington, Kentucky, in the 2015-16 recruiting class.

]]>
BillyDee Williams to transfer from WVU hoops http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150413/DM03/150419714 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150413/DM03/150419714 Mon, 13 Apr 2015 23:08:23 -0400 from staff reports

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University men's basketball junior BillyDee Williams plans to transfer to another school, coach Bob Huggins announced on Monday.

"BillyDee and I met, and we mutually agreed that he should transfer to another school for his senior season," Huggins said. "We thank BillyDee for his contributions to Mountaineer basketball, and we wish him success in his future endeavors."

Williams, from Orlando, Florida, played in 18 games this past season, averaging 1.2 points and 1.5 rebounds per game.

]]>
Football: WVU looks to plug receivers in on the outside http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150412/DM03/150419815 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150412/DM03/150419815 Sun, 12 Apr 2015 21:30:35 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In between practices on Tuesday and Thursday at West Virginia, coaches made the most notable maneuver of spring football. Junior Daikiel Shorts, who as a freshman tied for the team lead in receptions as an inside receiver, moved to wide receiver.

“It’s going to be a while before we have established guys on the outside,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We’re just adding him to the equation to see if that’s an answer, and I think it will be.”

The Mountaineers used a strength to address a weakness, using the wealth of players inside to assist their search for outside receivers. Two years earlier, when WVU had more outside receivers than it needed, Shorts shifted inside and responded with 45 receptions for 495 yards and two touchdowns.

Now, though, WVU seeks starters outside to replace NFL-bound Kevin White and Mario Alford. The solution is again Shorts, due in part to the potential so far shown inside by Jordan Thompson, K.J. Myers, Cody Clay and running back Wendell Smallwood, who was Shorts’ teammate at Maryland’s Eastern Christian Academy.

“We just wanted to put somebody else out there,” receivers coach Lonnie Galloway said. “It’s one of those things where there was no need for him to stay behind (Thompson). He’s one of our best players. The move needed to happen.”

The junior was spectacular during the scrimmage at Saturday’s open practice at Mountaineer Field, his second at the position. Shorts caught three touchdown passes from Skyler Howard, but the story of the day, never mind at wide receiver, was across the field.

That’s where the coaches will shift their attention now, and that’s where Shelton Gibson is the other starter, though in very loose terms.

“If I was to name two,” Holgorsen said, “he would be the other starter right now.”

Shorts moved to where Vernon Davis, Devonte Mathis and Ricky Rodgers were competing, but Holgorsen and Galloway remain determined to find players at both spots.

“That’s where we’re concentrating,” Galloway said. “We have to get some guys on the outside. I’m working. Coach Holgorsen is working. We’re trying to find guys we can put out there.”

With that as the backdrop, Gibson dropped a handful of passes during Saturday’s practice. He did start the scrimmage with a 30-yard touchdown catch, but he later let a pass in the end zone slide through his fingers.

Right or wrong, Gibson is so far known for the passes he hasn’t caught with the Mountaineers, and not merely because he has but four receptions for 60 yards since highlighting the 2013 recruiting class. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Gibson was curiously ineligible as a freshman that year and then dropped a critical pass in the first half of last year’s opener against Alabama.

“Every time I catch a ball,” Gibson said, “I think about that pass I dropped. Every single time.”

Trailing the nation’s top-ranked team 20-17 in the third quarter, the Mountaineers drove to the Crimson Tide 30-yard line. On third-and-15, quarterback Clint Trickett saw Gibson run a route on the left side that created space just past the first-down marker. The ball was there when the defender wasn’t, and the Mountaineers had a certain first down.

Gibson dropped the pass and Josh Lambert missed a 47-yard field goal attempt. Alabama was in the end zone six plays later and would win 33-23.

“I think it’s going to stick with me the rest of my life,” Gibson said. “People are still talking about it. But it’s a good thing — it has its good and it has its bad. That was a big game and a big play. You need to make those plays. Every time I drop a ball out there, I have to think, ‘It’s a big game and a big play.’ I use it for drive.”

Gibson caught one pass against Alabama and then two a week later against Towson. Combined, he had 13 yards receiving, and he didn’t play much offense and didn’t have a catch the rest of the regular season. In the Liberty Bowl, Gibson sped past a Texas A&M cornerback and caught a 47-yard pass.

“It gave me momentum,” he said. “How can I say this? My confidence from the Alabama game, when coach Holgorsen told me to go in the game, compared to the Texas A&M game was totally different. I needed a full season to practice and get more confident.”

If Gibson is slow to bloom, consider the way he started. He’s in his fifth full-time semester on campus — and his two-plus years are made even longer when summer classes are added — but this is the first time he’s been through winter conditioning and spring football.

Gibson enrolled in the summer of 2013 and at least gave coaches a decision about whether he’d play as a true freshman, the same season White and Alford were new to the team. Gibson was with the scout team, though, when the Mountaineers were getting ready for the opener against William & Mary.

Then it was over. Gibson learned he wasn’t eligible to play and the NCAA wouldn’t let him practice or work out as a member of the team for the fall and spring semesters. WVU could never offer detail on the situation, but it disagreed with the ruling, and specifically the part that made Gibson suffer for something it didn’t believe was his fault. The Mountaineers believed Gibson should have been eligible, but the NCAA disagreed, and Gibson was on his own for two semesters.

His teammates kept him close outside of the team facilities, and Gibson remembered the workouts he’d been through in the summer and tried to replicate them on his own during a redshirt year.

“I wish I would have pushed myself harder so I could have played a little more last year,” said Gibson, who has made athletic department and Big 12 honor rolls for a GPA of at least 3.0.

As Alford and White became stars, Gibson turned into a reliable special teams player, work he remains proud of and interested in repeating. He made seven tackles and returned 13 kickoffs for 250 yards. He figures to become the top returner in place of Alford, but the more important duty is succeeding Alford outside.

“It’s consistency,” Galloway said. “You can see he’s strong and he can run. He runs hard. He’s just got to get better at everything. It’s going to be huge for he and Skyler to get on the same page, but Shelton’s got to work on blocking, he’s got to work on being consistent catching the football and he’s got to be tough. That’s the biggest thing with my group. You’ve got to be tough.”

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
Offense leads WVU baseball to sweep of Butler http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150412/DM03/150419826 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150412/DM03/150419826 Sun, 12 Apr 2015 20:48:39 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

GRANVILLE, W.Va. - Behind 16 hits, the West Virginia University baseball team swept the series with a 12-4 victory over Butler on Sunday afternoon at Monongalia County Ballpark.

A total of 1,647 fans attended the contest, marking a three-game total of 6,968 for the weekend, the most to ever attend a weekend series in Morgantown.

West Virginia improved to 21-12 overall this season, scoring 12 runs on 16 hits with one error. Butler fell to 13-21 overall and had four runs on eight hits with two errors.

Junior center fielder KC Huth continued his torrid series at the plate, batting 3-for-3 with three runs, three RBI, two doubles, one home run and one walk. Huth finished his weekend 9-for-13 with three runs, two doubles, one home run and six RBI.

Senior third baseman Justin Fox, freshman second baseman Kyle Davis, sophomore first baseman Jackson Cramer and sophomore designated hitter Garrett Hope had two hits apiece. Fox also drove in two runs and scored two runs.

In his first game as the leadoff hitter, Fox hit a solo home run in the top of the first over the left center field fence to put WVU ahead 1-0. Davis and Cramer followed with back-to-back doubles to increase the lead to 2-0.

Freshman shortstop Tucker Cascadden recorded his first career RBI with a single in the bottom of the second as Huth scored to make it 3-0.

Sophomore right-hander Chad Donato (5-3) picked up the win for West Virginia, striking out a career high 10 batters. He went six innings, giving up one run on four hits.

Butler starter Nick Morton (2-4) took the loss after getting hit for 11 runs, seven earned, on 12 hits with two strikeouts and two walks. Tyler Houston and Chris Maranto each had two hits for the Bulldogs.

West Virginia returns to action with a midweek game against Penn State on Tuesday at Monongalia County Ballpark. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.

]]>
WVU's Abam selected for soccer camp http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150409/DM03/150409174 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150409/DM03/150409174 Thu, 9 Apr 2015 22:56:08 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University freshman Michaela Abam has been named to the United States' U19 Women's National Team roster and will train with the 24-player squad at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, California, April 11-18.

Abam, a forward and Houston native, has been a regular on the U.S. U20 team's roster over the last year. This week's camp is the first U19 WNT training camp since 2004, when the age group moved from a U19 competition to a U20 competition. The reinstatement of the U19 focus is in line with the national program's desire to increase training for the United States' youth women's and girls' national teams.

All athletes in the U19 age group are eligible for the team that will attempt to qualify for the 2016 FIFA U20 Women's World Cup, which will be held in Papua New Guinea. Women's Development coach Jitka Klimkova will lead the team in camp this week.

Abam most recently competed with the U.S. U20 Women's National Team at the U19 La Manga Tournament, in La Manga, Spain, in early March. Prior to that competition, she trained with the U.S. U20 team in January and attended multiple Youth National Team camps. She also was a member of the U.S. U17 Women's National Team.

The Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year, Abam saw time in all 22 matches throughout her rookie season and paced the Mountaineers in points (16), goals (8) and game-winning goals (4). Her totals ranked No. 6, No. 4 and No. 2, respectively, in the Big 12. An NSCAA All-Central Region Second Team honoree, she earned six starts and tallied two, two-goal performances.

]]>
Wind, outfield walls among quirks of Monongalia County Ballpark http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150409/DM03/150409200 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150409/DM03/150409200 Thu, 9 Apr 2015 20:05:57 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN — Players and coaches gasped when they stepped on the field for the first time this week. The postcard quality panoramas over the outfield walls demand attention. The only dirt on the playing surface is on the pitcher’s mound. The stands are at such an angle that every fan can feel close to the action.

Those are all quality aspects of Monongalia County Ballpark, which opens Friday as the West Virginia University baseball team plays host to Butler at 6 p.m. in the first game of a three-game non-conference series. The most obvious feature is something no one can see and no one can deny.

“The wind,” WVU shortstop Taylor Munden said. “The first two times we took batting practice out there, people were just crushing balls from foul pole to foul pole.”

The $25 million venue sits unobstructed atop a hill at Granville’s University Town Center. Everybody involved in the project knew whipping wind was possible, but not guaranteed because of separate construction adjacent to the ballpark.

“It’s kind of interesting,” West Virginia coach Randy Mazey said. “We knew it was windy up there and we knew the prevailing wind would kind of blow out to left, maybe a crosswind right to left, but then we said, ‘Well, the stadium’s going up down the hill from the urgent care facility. Heck, that’s a 58-foot bank with a building on top of it.’ So we thought, ‘Is that going to block the wind? Is it still going to be windy?’ We really didn’t know.”

So much later, the urgent care facility is up and the hillside and the building don’t block the wind, which does tend to vary, but generally heads out toward left field. College baseball introduced new baseballs this season without raised seams to make pitches easier to hit and games more enjoyable, and it’s worked to the tune of a 39-percent increase in home runs.

Mazey and others involved in the construction didn’t know that change was coming, either, but they don’t mind. The Mountaineers (18-12) have hit 30 home runs this season — the most in the Big 12 — after hitting 32 and 24 in Mazey’s first two seasons. The numbers, like the fly balls, will start to soar with 18 home games left on the schedule, including the next 11 in succession.

“Munden hit one the other day up there in batting practice and some of the construction guys had tape measures on their belts,” Mazey said. “They measured it 475 feet where it landed. There are going to be days it plays really small.”

Mazey said the opposite will be true, too. That same day, outfielder Shaun Wood, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound left-handed hitter Mazey said has “as much power as anybody on the team,” couldn’t get a ball over the fence. The Mountaineers say the wind shifts and the effects can vary. Balls kept flying over the fence during one intrasquad workout earlier this week, but that was a change from earlier in practice.

“A lot of the outfielders had to do a really good job staying on the balls because the wind was blowing in,” catcher Ray Guerrini said. “It does favor left field or straightaway center, but it changes. It swirls. It’s calm sometimes, too.”

Not every ball will leave the park, though that won’t diminish excitement. The left field area that figures to get a lot of action has a few features that ought to liven up play.

“I think it gives it character,” Mazey said. “All good fields have character. It’s not just a cookie-cutter type of thing. I think it makes it interesting and, hopefully, it ends up being a home-field advantage for us.”

Most obvious is the 16-foot double wall in left-centerfield that stands up against the ticket office building. Guerrini bounced two balls off that wall in practice Monday. Ten feet to the left or right and he would have had two home runs.

“No one’s hit one over it yet,” said Munden, the leadoff batter who leads the team with eight home runs.

The left field corner is even stranger. The part of the wall up against the fair pole is 16 feet high, but the wall slopes down to the right until it reaches the standard eight feet. Balls that hit the wall there, or any other area in the outfield, will take hard hops off new, lively padding. The exception will be in the stretches in both power alleys where there is no padding and only chain-link fencing for the bullpen.

Then there’s the left field corner that has a curved concrete retaining wall in foul territory that’s also 16 feet above the ground. Balls hooked or sliced sharply that way will bounce in fair territory, hop hard off the turf and hit the wall. In some places without a wall, it would go out of play for a ground-rule double. At WVU, it’s going to create unpredictable results for live balls.

“There are going to be some funky bounces out there,” Wood said. “We’ve been out there practicing bounces off the wall and trying to find out which way they’re going to go, but you don’t know really know what’s going to happen yet. You’re going to see some triples and inside-the-park home runs, for sure.”

None of this makes the place friendly for pitchers, and Mazey said he’ll have to work with them on developing a new way to approach games.

“They’ve got to understand going into it we don’t care if we win a game 2-1 or 10-8,” Mazey said. “There are going to be some days when a guy hits a fly ball you think is going to get caught and it just ends up on the wrong side of the fence. We’re going to have to change the way we teach and recruit a little bit. We’ll have to teach guys how to sink the ball and recruit guys who already know how to sink the ball.”

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
Mike Casazza: Huggins offers solutions to what ails college basketball http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150408/DM03/150409271 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150408/DM03/150409271 Wed, 8 Apr 2015 20:44:17 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The overarching problem for college basketball — apart from having so many problems to begin with — is it suffers from an identity crisis.

One-and-done players are difficult to embrace, and their annual exodus hurts the quality of play. We know the names and affiliations of way too many officials, which is as much our fault for paying attention as it is their fault for becoming the centers of attention. The essence of the game is about famed and rising coaches, skillful and underdog players and how leaders and followers come together to succeed. It’s all captured in the wonderful month of March (and a few days of April), but the rules always seem to be about the people with this whistles.

There’s no greater muddiness than this: Who’s in charge?

Oh, it’s the NCAA, but college basketball doesn’t have an authority figure, which is a shame or a sham or both because this is a dire time. The sport needs to be changed, but by whom?

There’s an effort underway get a hold of this problem, and we’ll soon have an oversight committee. It’s a 12-person panel headed by UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero that’s supposed to create a smoother, faster path from problem to solution. They’ll have a wide range of chores, as grand as hypothesizing a new regular-season calendar, as functional as critiquing the selection process for the NCAA tournament and as critical as making suggestions for rules changes.

Who is among the 11 others will be telling, but the plan is to include administrators, maybe a player or two and even some coaches — and that’s where things get interesting. There’s a bizarre bias against quizzing coaches and relying on them to make things happen. That’s not a theory, either. That comes from Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 commissioner who is in charge of football’s oversight committee.

He reminded CBSSports.com Tuesday that owners make decisions in the NFL instead of coaches, and when he was talking about proposed changes to the college basketball court and its rules, Bowlsby said, “Everybody knows it needs to be done, but if you count on coaches to get it done, it will never get done.”

That environment — “Please, affect change, though we doubt you can” — is what a coach will walk into on that committee. It’s not for everyone, but it’s for someone. It’s for someone who is opinionated and unapologetic and influential and unconcerned with the black hat others have placed atop his head.

“I would love to be on it,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “It probably won’t happen, but I would love to be on it.”

Huggins is all the things a coach on that committee ought to be, but while that’s what’s needed, it’s not necessarily what’s desired. Consider this: Freshman guard Daxter Miles said WVU was going to beat Kentucky, and that became a reason to skewer Miles. When the Mountaineers lost by 39 points, Miles was obligated to face the media. So, too, was every other player and coach.

When an official screws up a call or a game, he has to face one reporter in as controlled an environment as can be imagined. Huggins has long believed that if coaches and players are made to answer questions about strategy and decisions, maybe officials ought to, too.

That particular idea might never happen, but that kind of abstract thinking is what’s needed and what he offers.

“I think they need to hear different opinions,” Huggins said. “I just don’t know if they want to.”

Huggins shrugs over some of the suggested rules changes. The NIT trimmed the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 this year, and the results were minimal. Comparing a team’s averages from the regular season with a couple of NIT games saw one or two more possessions per game. That doesn’t guarantee more points, more exciting games or more enjoyable play.

“I think what you’re going to accomplish by lowering the shot clock is creating more bad shots,” said Huggins, who knows his press would benefit greatly from a shorter shot clock or a subsequent decision to give teams eight seconds to cross mid-court instead of 10.

There’s also an idea to make the three-foot arc under the basket a foot bigger to better adjudicate blocks and charges, and that might also mean widening the lane and creating space that could restore post play. But Huggins doesn’t believe a bigger arc accomplishes anything, least of all solving the completely subjective way officials interpret blocks and charges.

“Why would you widen the lane when you don’t have post players as it is?” he said. “We don’t have post players because nobody teaches post play.”

To Huggins, the best way to clean up the game is to clean up the way it’s called.

“Isn’t it true that the old saying was a good official is one you didn’t realize was there?” Huggins said. “That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.”

That idea should to be more popular than it is because the truth is if you’re going to have a discussion about fixing college basketball and exclude the quality of officiating, you don’t belong in the discussion. And that, above all else, is why Huggins belongs at the table.

“It wasn’t long ago they didn’t stop play if I put my hand on you at halfcourt and it didn’t have anything to do with the play,” Huggins said. “If you were going laterally or just bouncing the ball and I didn’t impede your progress to the basket, they never called a foul.

“If we don’t want continued stoppages of play, which is what they say, why would it be that way now? If there’s no advantage gained, why call a foul? If it doesn’t impede somebody, why call it? Maybe we ought to look at that first.”

]]>
Huggins won't stray from pressure next season http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150407/DM03/150409414 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150407/DM03/150409414 Tue, 7 Apr 2015 18:17:52 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - When Bob Huggins was named Big 12 coach of the year by the conference coaches last month, he poked the honor off to the side.

"Most of the time," the West Virginia University men's basketball coach said, "somebody who has a couple of bad years and then has a good year ends up being coach of the year, so I'd just as soon not be coach of the year."

A similar honor and another opportunity to downplay the occasion arrived last week, when Huggins was named the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year at the Final Four in Indianapolis. No longer focused on the season and the next obstacle it invariably offered, Huggins opened up to embrace the award Tuesday - though only slightly.

"It's nice people think you did a good job," said Huggins, who beat out five Elite Eight coaches, two of which were in the Final Four. "But the truth is that's what we're supposed to do."

The prize came with only recognition. There was no contract incentive to rival the $30,000 he won for being named conference coach of the year for the 11th time, that reward making up much of the $155,000 he made for on-the-floor achievements. It was a priceless season for Huggins and the Mountaineers, who returned to the Sweet Sixteen, never mind the NCAA tournament, after making the NIT last season and finishing 13-19 the year before.

Point guard Juwan Staten was named first-team all-Big 12 for the second consecutive season, the first time a WVU player made his conference's first team in successive years since Greg Jones in 1981-83. Forward Devin Williams was honorable mention all-conference while guard Jevon Carter made the Big 12's all-defense team and set the school's freshman record for steals.

And the school that never finished a season leading the country in a major statistical category woke up Tuesday, the first day of the college offseason, ranked No. 1 in total steals (376), steals per game (10.7) and offensive rebounds per game (16.43).

"There were a lot of good things that happened," Huggins said, knowing the 39-point loss to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen could, but shouldn't, dilute all the accomplishments.

The Mountaineers are primed for more good things, provided they do in the offseason what they did during the regular seasons and make sure history doesn't repeat itself.

WVU lost three players from the 2014 roster early and five players from the 2013 roster early. Huggins had seven first-year players this season who, for the most part, didn't suffer the same problems previous newcomers had. Up to 10 players could be back from a team that only used two seniors this season, though Staten and guard Gary Browne will be hard to replace.

Mimicking what the 2015 team did means mimicking the way those Mountaineers played defense but also moving away from some patterns on offense.

Huggins said the early, if not obvious, plan is to press again next season.

"We'd be foolish to discard it," he said.

There will be changes and challenges, and the combination has Huggins thinking.

"We're going to have to take a look at it," he said. "We can't have people shooting the same percentage and we can't have people shooting 40 free throws a game if we're going to press. So I don't know that it'll be exactly the same."

While the press was unique and chaotic, it was unusually kind, too. WVU ranked No. 328 of 351 teams in field-goal percentage defense (46.9), and nobody fouled more overall (821) or per game (23.5). The Mountaineers were second-to-last in opponent free throw attempts (903) and made opponent free throws (623).

Staten and Browne were reliable defenders who could guard the ball and keep it away from a designated player, but Huggins can elevate returning players like Carter, Daxter Miles, Tarik Phillip and Jaysean Paige into those roles, knowing each will be better conditioned and more familiar next season.

WVU's press evolved and diversified as the season progressed, and Huggins said he can continue to do that next season to make the attack even more unpredictable. He'll also welcome freshman guard James "Beetle" Bolden, freshman forward Esa Ahmad and guard Teyvon Myers, junior college's top scorer who pressed on defense at North Dakota's Williston State College the past two season. Huggins, who can't comment on Myers because he hasn't signed with WVU, said Bolden and Ahmad are "both athletic enough to handle it."

However, the Mountaineers won't be as unusual next season. Texas fired Rick Barnes and hired VCU's Shaka Smart, who was wildly successful and made the 2011 Final Four with his press. Huggins said Smart mixes up his defense more by backing off at times and using different traps and formations. Though that might reduce the novelty within the Big 12, the benefits remain.

"Nobody likes the press," Huggins said. "Nobody likes to play against it for 40 minutes. That won't change."

WVU's biggest strides have to come on offense, and Huggins said he'll look at his motion system and "see if we can modify some things in areas we need to be better." Much of the responsibility is on the players, and Huggins made his suggestions clear before releasing them into offseason preparations.

"Our skill level has got to be much better," he said. "I mean, we have to shoot it better, and as important, or probably more important, is we have to pass it much better."

Only three regulars return who had a positive assist-turnover ratio last season: Carter (62-41), Miles (34-25) and forward Nathan Adrian (34-26). The 10 possible returning players averaged one assist every 17.5 minutes. Bolden is a quick guard from Covington, Ky., who scored 2,000 points in his prep career and Ahmad was a star at Cleveland's Shaker Heights High who shared the state's player of the year award as a senior. While Myers' 25 points per game speaks for itself, Huggins believes the way Bolden and Ahmad can handle and pass the ball will help on offense.

"The better you pass the ball and the more willing you are to pass the ball, the harder guys will run," Huggins said. "If you keep running and keep filling the lane and you never get the ball, you kind of develop a tendency not to run."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
WVU Football: Mountaineers search for 'right depth' at running back http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150406/DM03/150409475 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150406/DM03/150409475 Mon, 6 Apr 2015 23:26:23 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The idea that this spring for West Virginia football is about finding replacements for Kevin White and Mario Alford isn’t inaccurate. It’s limited. This period of 15 practices, which hits No. 7 on Tuesday, is just as much about finding new bodies for the roles Dreamius Smith, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie filled last season.

There’s an enormous difference, one apparently as big as the divide separating Skyler Howard and William Crest from freshmen Chris Chugunov and David Sills at quarterback so far. Very simply, White and Alford were WVU’s passing offense last season with 174 catches for 2,392 yards and 21 touchdowns on their way to certain spots in the NFL draft.

Smith, Buie and Garrison were the third, fourth and fifth running backs. Smith was valuable, if not unpredictable, with 452 yards and five touchdowns, but Garrison and Buie, who led the Mountaineers in rushing in 2011 and 2012, respectively, combined for 335 yards and two touchdowns. Howard had more rushing yards than Garrison. Crest and Clint Trickett combined for as many touchdowns as Buie.

But Smith, Buie and Garrison were bodies at a position that dearly needs bodies, not merely because of the way the game wears on running backs, but the way WVU’s running backs work.

Rushel Shell runs straight ahead, never mind the obstacles, and accumulates contact and invites danger. His position coach, JaJuan Seider, likens Shell to Marshawn Lynch, which is equal parts critique and compliment because Seider wants Shell to be smarter so he can play more. Last season, Shell barreled over a Baylor defender, severely sprained an ankle and needed six weeks to trust it again.

“I feel like I’ve got a lot to work on, like making the first person miss so I can break some long runs,” Shell said.

Wendell Smallwood is best used not as a feature back, but as a complementary, highly skilled and capable part of the running and passing games. When Shell sat last season and Smallwood filled in, he wasn’t as dangerous and the offense wasn’t as effective. With Shell healthy and Smallwood moving all around this spring, the Mountaineers have liked what they’ve seen.

“Up to this point in spring practice, he’s been probably the best player on the field,” Seider said. “Period.”

That’s ideal for WVU and that’s why the team requires a gaggle of running backs. They have to spell Shell and to make sure Smallwood isn’t limited by the leading role. Maybe the Mountaineers don’t need five running backs, but they need more than two, and Smith’s graduation and decisions by Buie and Garrison to leave the team a year early means WVU has to find players right now.

But how? The Mountaineers didn’t sign a running back in the recruiting class and had three on scholarship when spring practice began last month. As physical as the position is, there’s a mental part that has to be considered.

“You want the right depth,” Seider said. “You want guys who understand their roles and understand the situation they’re in. Everyone can’t be a starter. Everyone’s got a role. Guys get their reps off what they earn, not what they think they deserve.”

It’s not for everyone, and Garrison is going somewhere else so he can be during his senior season who he was as a freshman. People aren’t signing up for it, which means the Mountaineers have had to make some maneuvers.

They had Donte Thomas-Williams, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound back who redshirted last season and has been injured and unable to practice lately, but was getting looks as Seider tried to learn more about players other than Shell and Smallwood.

His absence further freed up the two newest running backs, Elijah Wellman and Jacky Marcellus, sophomores willing to accept the unusual orders and able to give the Mountaineers a new and more complete look in the backfield.

Wellman won the Huff Award as the state’s top defensive player at Spring Valley in 2012, but also ran for 1,676 yards and 18 touchdowns that season. He played the fullback/tight end role in reserve last season, but coaches see Wellman being able to do what Owen Schmitt did years ago for the Mountaineers. They believe he can be a pass-catcher, and they know he can be a ball-carrier.

“Not too many moves, I’ll tell you that,” the 6-2, 230-pound Wellman said. “I’m more of a downhill guy. I’m not going to juke anybody or spin-move anybody. I’m going to put my head down and run over you to get a few yards.”

Marcellus is a similar story from a different mold. He has the high school background, he redshirted in 2013 and he’s changing positions. Marcellus was prepping to play inside receiver when he was recruited and before he suffered a season-ending knee injury last summer.

The difference is Marcellus is 5-8 and 175 pounds, but that distinction only makes him fit in better. Shell and Thomas-Williams give WVU two big backs. Smallwood continues to mimic former starter Charles Sims and Wellman is getting a chance to conjure up images of Schmitt.

Marcellus is the size of Buie and Garrison and is used to a dual role — and he’s being considered for punt returns. As a junior, when he was honorable mention all-state at Florida’s Immokalee High, he had 691 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing and caught 34 passes for 747 yards and seven touchdowns. He was on the way to topping both a season later before a knee injury cut his season short.

“Talk about a tough kid,” Seider said. “He’ll get in there and scrap and fight. That’s exactly what we want in a back. Sometimes you get a guy like that who’s smaller by nature, but he’s got toughness and he’ll fight, and that makes other guys see that. He brings that to the group. Plus, he’s great to be around. The other guys like him.”

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
Chuck McGill: Depth, versatility are pluses for WVU o-line http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150405/DM03/150409589 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150405/DM03/150409589 Sun, 5 Apr 2015 21:15:36 -0400 By Chuck McGill CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Whether it's Skyler Howard or William Crest or David Sills or Chris Chugonov who stands behind the center when West Virginia opens the football season against Georgia Southern on Sept. 5, the offensive line is going to have one critical job: protect the quarterback.

"Thanks for reminding me," WVU offensive line coach Ron Crook said.

Crook knows the importance of giving a rookie starting QB a bit of breathing room. The four scholarship quarterbacks on the Mountaineers' roster have combined to appear in five games at the Division I level, which includes Howard's starts in the regular season finale at Iowa State and the bowl game loss against Texas A&M.

Other than Howard, West Virginia will let redshirt freshman Crest compete, along with January enrollees Sills and Chugonov. WVU coach Dana Holgorsen called the two true freshmen "young pups" on Saturday and said Howard and Crest are "much farther ahead."

It'd help Clint Trickett's successor at quarterback to not have to worry about protection issues. There is good news along that front - the offensive line front.

"There's no question this is the most depth we've had since we've been here," said Crook, who is in his third season at WVU. "We've got 15 offensive linemen who are here for the spring. That gives you three full groups."

WVU is in its third week of spring football drills, which culminate with the Gold-Blue game April 25 at Mountaineer Field. The weeks leading up to that game are crucial for Crook.

He knows he has 6-foot-5, 312-pound Adam Pankey at left guard, a redshirt junior who has appeared in 20 games and started 13. He knows he has 6-4, 297-pound Tyler Orlosky, a center who has appeared in 24 games and started 16. He knows he has 6-4, 318-pound Marquis Lucas, a senior right tackle who has appeared in 23 games and started 17.

"We've got three returning starters, so those guys should feel confident that they're a starter right now," Crook said. "Now, those positions can always change; we've seen them all change. They should feel like they've earned the right to come in as a starter. The other two spots, it's going to vary a lot through the spring."

Crook doesn't know how the other dozen bodies fit in. He's figuring it out.

"The biggest thing I'm looking for right now is guys that are going to play consistently," Crook said, "and usually the older they get the more consistent they play. It's exciting to have a veteran group, a large number of guys who have played, guys who are older. They've been in game situations, so they know what the game is about, they know what practice is about, they know how they need to improve.

"It's good to see guys who haven't played a lot develop more strength in the weight room, which gives them more confidence."

Overall, Crook has 107 games of Division I experience among his offensive linemen, including 47 starts. The spring will sort out the competition at left tackle, which includes juniors Russell Haughton-James and Sylvester Townes, and redshirt freshman Yodny Cajuste. Junior Tony Matteo, with five career appearances and one start, and sophomore Grant Lingafelter, with five career appearances, are vying for playing time at right guard.

"There will be a lot of guys moving, and again that's why having a lot of bodies helps," Crook said. "That doesn't make you move a lot of guys to evaluate one person. If I want to move Adam (Pankey) back outside, I've got guys who can step in at guard. If I want to put somebody else at tackle, I don't have to move three guys to put somebody else there."

***

Back in December, the Charleston Daily Mail reported that football coach Doc Holliday and Marshall University officials had agreed to a new contract - not only one that includes an extension of years, but a bump in annual pay.

The time for an announcement of that deal has arrived.

According to sources, Holliday's new deal has been finalized and will be announced this week. Keep an eye toward Wednesday or Thursday for the official release.

Holliday's previous deal with Marshall was to run through the 2017-18 season at $600,000 per season. Holliday, 57, received overtures from the University of Pittsburgh before the Thundering Herd's Boca Raton Bowl win, and the coach and school quickly moved toward a "handshake" agreement on a revised deal.

Holliday, who will turn 58 on April 21, has guided Marshall to two consecutive double-digit win seasons. Marshall finished the 2013 season at 10-4 with a Military Bowl win over then-ACC program Maryland, and then followed that up with a 13-1 season in 2014, which culminated with a win in the Boca Raton Bowl. The Herd finished No. 22 in the Coaches' poll and No. 23 in the Associated Press poll. The season included Holliday's second consecutive Conference USA East Division crown.

]]>
WVU women drop heartbreaker to UCLA in WNIT final http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150404/DM03/150409647 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150404/DM03/150409647 Sat, 4 Apr 2015 20:07:17 -0400 By Michael Dailey CHARLESTON, W.Va. - UCLA's Jordin Canada was hoisted in the air by her teammates moments after the final buzzer sounded Saturday at the Charleston Civic Center.

It was a fitting tribute to Canada, considering the point guard had just carried her team to the Women's National Invitation Tournament Championship.

Canada, a 5-foot-6 freshman from Los Angeles, scored a game-high 31 points to lead the Bruins to a thrilling 62-60 win over West Virginia (23-15) in front of 8,403 fans and a national television audience on the CBS Sports Network.

"It was such a great feeling to know that your team trusts you and that they have my back," said Canada, who earned the WNIT Most Valuable Player award for her efforts. "It's such a great feeling and an honor, especially as a freshman. We have four seniors on this team, so for them to pick me up, it shows that they have a lot of trust in me, so I respect that."

The win capped an improbable six game run from by the Bruins, who entered the tournament with 13-18 mark and finished 19-18. The team finished with nine wins in its final 11 contests.

UCLA earned the title in its first ever appearance in the NIT, while West Virginia earned its second overall runner-up finish in the tournament, after also falling short in the 2005 title game.

"We were starting to play our best basketball late in the Pac-12 season," UCLA fourth-year coach Cori Close said. "It wasn't always playing out in wins and losses. We thought we played our best game of the year in a game we lost to Stanford, so we felt like we were getting some momentum.

"I think it was just putting the pieces together as a whole. It just took a long time. It was all those teamwork things where you're putting all those individual puzzle pieces together to make a really pretty picture. I just think it started to click and started to glue."

Canada used her quick first step to the rim the entire contest thanks to some help from WVU defenders who were forced to guard the Bruins' other hot-handed guards.

Canada finished 13 of 15 from the free throw line in the contest.

Bruins sophomore guard Kari Korver earned the Mountaineers' attention after going 15 of 30 from 3-point range in the first five games of the tournament, with junior Nirra Fields also demanding attention.

"They took our other guards out of the game," Close said. "Kari Korver's been shooting incredibly well from the 3-point line all tournament long and Nirra Fields has been really big for us, so they had to expend a lot of defensive energy to take those two guards away.

"So part of the credit goes to Jordin Canada. I mean literally late in the game I was like keep the ball in her hands and get out of her way. Don't screw this up and over-coach it.

"Jordin was in a zone. From the very beginning she was ready to control the game. But I do think some of that credit has to go to the way Kari Korver and Nirra Fields have played this entire tournament because that created wider driving lanes for her to use that first step. I think that's how we really won the game."

West Virginia coach Mike Carey also credited Canada, but was also perplexed by his own team's lack of offensive aggression.

"We knew she was going to drive, but we didn't know she'd go to the foul line 15 times on drives," Carey said of Canada. "We didn't do a good job. Give her credit, she attacked, but on the other hand, we didn't attack.

"We stayed out and passed the ball around, around, around and took bad shots. Every time we penetrated, something good happened. I don't know why I couldn't get our guards to penetrate.

"The biggest thing was they weren't going to come out of that zone because we were just passing. We were going east and west instead of north and south. Every time we went north and south against their zone, good things happened. I tried to run different things, I even tried to run some man-to-man quick hitters just to get some movement and penetrate, but it was tough, it was tough."

West Virginia finished just 5 of 16 from 3-point range, while UCLA finished 1 of 6.

The contest was hotly contested from start to finish, with 12 ties and WVU holding the game's largest lead at six points (49-43) with just 7:22 to play. UCLA's largest lead was five points at 62-57.

Canada also came up big on the defensive end down the stretch for the Bruins.

With her team nursing a 58-57 lead and just 44 seconds to play, Canada slipped through the Mountaineers' pressure defense and converted a contested layup with 25 seconds left to extend the Bruins' lead to 60-57.

Canada stole the ensuing inbounds pass and was fouled before converting a pair of free throws and a 62-57 advantage with 19 seconds to play.

"I saw they were trying to get the ball up the floor quickly and I saw her loft it up in the air and I beat her to the ball," Canada said of the steal. "I just reacted to the moment."

After WVU's Linda Stepney drilled to 3-pointer to cut the lead to 62-60 with 12 seconds left, the Mountaineers again left Carey scratching his head.

With West Virginia out of timeouts, UCLA inbounded the ball to Canada, who appeared to be trapped by WVU's Bria Holmes and Crystal Leary, but no Mountaineer defenders moved in for the foul, eventually allowing Canada to pass the ball up the court and expire the clock.

"I had no timeouts left, so I don't know why, when we come down and hit the 3, we had an opportunity to foul and it's by our bench and I'm screaming 'foul, foul, foul, foul', I don't know why we didn't foul right there,'" Carey said. "When the game was on the line we just didn't execute, which we had been doing in the past here going down the stretch. This game we just didn't."

Canada didn't expect that good fortune in the waning moments.

"I was very surprised," she said. "Usually they trap, that's how they get their points off turnovers. I thought the coach called a timeout because I saw all my teammates just stop, so I was trying to get the ball in really quick and I was very surprised when they didn't trap, so I was tried to push it up the floor so that couldn't happen."

West Virginia countered Canada's offense with a trio of double-digit scorers. Senior Averee Fields led the way with 17 points, followed by Holmes' 14 points and Stepney, a senior, with 10 points.

Prior to the contest, Holmes was named an honorable mention All-American by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Holmes led the Mountaineers with season with a 19 point scoring average.

]]>
WVU women survive bumpy road to Saturday's WNIT title game http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150402/DM03/150409753 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150402/DM03/150409753 Thu, 2 Apr 2015 23:13:22 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — They stood there at the end of an 83-second defensive possession, nearly three full trips through the shot clock in a women’s college basketball game, with their hands on their knees. This was a moment West Virginia’s tiring players figured they might regret in Wednesday’s WNIT semifinal against Temple.

It instead defined them, the game they’d win 66-58 in overtime and the very spirit that’s carried them through five wins and to a spot in Saturday’s 3 p.m. championship game against UCLA at the Charleston Civic Center.

“I think sadly people saw their season coming to an end, and that’s when we got desperate and decided to come together and play with more heart. I just wish people had come to that point before,” senior guard Averee Fields said of this late-season splurge, though the same could be said of what happened in the second half against Temple.

“It’s a little bit frustrating, but you’ve got to let that go. I’m excited for the team and glad we’re doing well. We want a championship, and we’ve got one more game to win to get that.”

Three times the Owls tried and missed a jump shot on this interminable possession and three times the Owls grabbed the offensive rebound. The fourth attempt, that following a long rebound on the sideline and a timeout granted before the Temple player stumbled into a travel, was at the rim by Tyonna Williams. WVU’s Lanay Montgomery tried to block it and ended up with the foul, but Williams missed two free throws.

After all that, the Mountaineers (23-14) escaped unharmed and suddenly had momentum when Linda Stepney scored on the other end. Rather than a growing advantage, the Temple lead was 34-30 with 17:14 to go. WVU was on its way back into the game.

This season has followed a similar script. The Mountaineers were once 15-11 after an 11-day rut that saw three losses in four games and the head coach publicly condemn his team.

“Sometimes you’ve got to challenge people,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “As a lot of you know, I’m not afraid to challenge people.”

They’ve won eight out of 11 games, the past two in overtime as they try to extend a season in a tournament they previously sought to avoid.

“I think it woke a lot of us up,” junior guard Bria Holmes said. “Everyone was in a slump and everyone was feeling down. We didn’t make the NCAA tournament, but we don’t want our seniors to go out without anything. Going out with an NIT championship wouldn’t be bad.”

Completing the comeback took as much effort as the endless possession. WVU promptly stopped Temple, but threw away the defensive rebound for an easy Owls score. Another turnover and another Temple layup followed. The lead was at eight points, but WVU, which erased a four-point deficit in the final 30 seconds of regulation in Sunday’s overtime win against Villanova, answered again.

There were six unanswered points before Temple scored for a 40-36 lead. Stepney scored, Montgomery blocked her fourth shot of the game to send a fast break the other way and that ended with a Holmes layup to tie the score at 40. A jump shot buy Fields with 7:41 to go put WVU ahead 44-43, the 12th lead change of the game.

There would be four more, and there would be five more minutes at the end of regulation. Getting there was a chore, though, and required some good fortune. The Mountaineers crushed Temple on the boards, outrebounding the Owls 58-47, but the visitors grabbed one massive offensive rebound with a two-point lead and 44 seconds to go.

But one of the three Temple freshmen in the game decided to take a quick shot under the rim rather than back out and force WVU to foul. The shot missed and WVU had the ball with a chance to tie. Fields missed, and WVU had to foul, but the Mountaineers still had a foul to give, thanks to Temple’s silly shot on the other end. Teana Muldrow’s foul gave Temple the ball under the WVU basket. After nearly turning it over twice, the Owls lost possession on the third inbound to set up Holmes, a 50-percent shooter at the foul line in the first four WNIT games, who made two to force overtime.

Overtime only arrived, though, when WVU survived another three-shot possession when Temple missed a driving layup and then watched the ball twice go up through a crowd of waving arms and fail to fall through the hoop.

“I’m tired of overtime,” Carey said. “I shouldn’t say that. We were losing going in both times. It’s not like somebody hit a shot against us to go to overtime.”

The team that grew to embrace the WNIT had no issue playing overtime. More basketball is better than no basketball. The Mountaineers made their first two shots in overtime and all seven of their foul shots, and when they needed a score to finally create some separation, a jump shot and a free throw from Fields gave WVU a 60-55 lead and room to breathe for the final 60 seconds.

The championship game against UCLA (18-18) will be televised by CBS Sports Net and will be the sixth game the Mountaineers have had to pay for so they could be the home team. The price tags get bigger as the tournament progresses. The WNIT is guaranteed a minimum amount for every home game — $6,500, $7,500, $9,000, $12,000, $15,000 for Wednesday’s semifinal and $20,000 for Saturday’s final. WVU could cut larger checks, though. For every round, a school must pay either the minimum guarantee or 85 percent of the first $30,000 of net game receipts and 55 percent of the net game receipts above $30,000.

Additionally, WVU paid $5,000 to rent the Civic Center because the Coliseum was previously booked for a NCAA regional gymnastics meet.

The wins and the crowds have been redeeming, though. The five crowds have each been in the top 15 for 22 dates this season and four are in the top 10. Wednesday’s crowd of 3,025 was the fourth-best of the season. WVU sold 3,500 tickets by the end of business Thursday.

“I do want to thank the administration because, since we couldn’t play here, they put the bid in and rented the Civic Center, which is not cheap,” Carey said. “It’s great they were willing to do that for us. We really appreciate that, and I told the girls, ‘Since we’re in it, we might as well try to win it.’ We’ve got one game left, so we’re going to go out there and try to win it.”

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>
Tickets available for WNIT championship game in Charleston http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150402/DM01/150409853 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150402/DM01/150409853 Thu, 2 Apr 2015 10:51:25 -0400 The West Virginia University women's basketball team will take on the UCLA Bruins Saturday in Charleston for the Women's National Invitational Tournament championship basketball game.

The game will be played at the Charleston Civic Center because of the NCAA gymnastics regional Saturday at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown. Tickets go on sale today and cost $7 for adults. They can be purchased at the Civic Center box office or through Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com.

Special rates for youth under 18 and groups of 10 or more also are available at $5 and $4 a ticket, but can only be purchased in person at the Civic Center box office. Flex plan tickets cannot be used to attend the game.

Fans are encouraged to purchase all other tickets online.

Season ticket holders can reserve seating by calling the Mountaineer Ticket Office at 1-800-WVU GAME anytime before noon Friday.

WVU students and members of Carry's Crew may attend the game for free, but must show a valid student ID or membership card.

The championship game will tipoff at 3 p.m.

]]>
WVU tops Temple in OT, will play UCLA in WNIT championship game http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150401/DM03/150409881 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150401/DM03/150409881 Wed, 1 Apr 2015 23:23:32 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — What Temple did not have was what drew Mike Carey’s attention when the West Virginia women’s coach readied for Wednesday’s WNIT semifinal.

“We wanted to drive on them,” he said. “We didn’t feel they had a shot-blocker inside, to be honest with you. We wanted to drive and get shots in the paint or draw fouls.”

His Mountaineers had taken 34 layups as the end drew near and just 30 other shots anywhere else on the court, and he still couldn’t escape the Owls. There he was, again in overtime, and again fortunate to be there thanks to another frantic rally late in regulation, and he just couldn’t locate any semblance of organized offense.

“We were just trying to find a way to score,” said Carey, who called two timeouts early in overtime to draw up ideas that didn’t work. “There was no movement, no flow.”

So at the end of the night of never-ending drives, at the conclusion of a game that had some sloppy stretches and two teams that combined to miss 92 of 135 shots, there was Averee Fields and a perfectly executed step-back jumper. And a foul.

The three-point play propelled the Mountaineers to a 66-58 victory at before 3,025 at the Coliseum and Saturday’s championship game.

“They way they clogged up the middle made it hard to run the plays we typically run,” Fields said. “A lot of times it was one-on-one or a two-man game. I saw I had a little bit of an opening, and I was confident I could hit that shot.”

The fear of the drive forced Erica Covile to take extra steps to protect the paint. Fields then hopped back just right of the foul line before swishing her jumper, her seventh basket in 11 shots. The point at the foul line, where she was 6 for 7, put the Mountaineers ahead 60-55 with a minute to go and started the celebration in a building that has seen five wins this postseason.

“The three points,” Carey said, “really helped us.”

The Mountaineers (23-14) will be the host for the 3 p.m. game Saturday at the Charleston Civic Center because of the NCAA gymnastics regional Saturday at the WVU Coliseum. West Virginia plays UCLA (18-18). The Mountaineers lost the WNIT title game to Missouri State in 2005.

“It’d be great to play a game here, it goes without saying, but I’d like to thank the crowd,” Carey said. “It was a fantastic crowd. I hope they can come two hours south to Charleston. It’ll be a great game between us and UCLA, no doubt.”

Fields had 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists, but was by no means the only hero for the Mountaineers, who have won eight of their past 11 games. Lanay Montgomery had four points, 24 rebounds and eight blocked shots.

“That was amazing,” WVU’s Bria Holmes said. “We needed Lanay big-time. We needed her blocks. We needed her rebounds. She stepped up huge.”

Holmes had 22 points on 9 for 27 shooting, and her two free throws with 12 seconds left in regulation tied the score for the seventh and final time and forced overtime. WVU, which erased a four-point deficit with a pair of layups in the final 30 seconds of Sunday’s overtime win against Villanova, trailed by eight points in the second half and by three with 1:26 remaining against the Owls (20-17).

WVU’s Linda Stepney went 1 for 2 at the foul line to make the score 53-51 with 1:09 remaining, and Temple ran the shot clock and missed at the buzzer. Tanaya Atkinson rebounded the miss with 44 seconds left and then put the ball back up rather than back it out and force WVU to foul.

She missed, and Montgomery grabbed the rebound. Out of a timeout, Fields missed a jumper with 25 seconds left. WVU was lucky to have a foul to give, and the Owls took the ball out of bounds under the basket instead of taking free throws. WVU hounded the inbound play, first forcing the ball out of play and then tying up possession for a jump ball that kept the ball with Temple.

On the third attempt, Alliya Butts was trapped on the sideline and had the ball stolen by Crystal Leary. She passed to Holmes, who was fouled and made two free throws. Holmes was shooting 61.8 percent for the season and was 15 for 30 in the first five WNIT games.

“I was nervous,” she said. “The whole tournament I felt like my free throws weren’t that good. The whole year they weren’t good.”

Temple had one more chance in regulation and not only drove the full length of the floor before Butts missed a layup, but had two offensive rebounds and two additional chances under the basket. The ball went out of bounds with 0.4 seconds to go and the Temple bench hollering at the officials.

“We got shots at the basket that didn’t go in,” Owls coach Tanya Cardoza said.

WVU made its first two shots in overtime and Temple went 1 for 2 twice at the foul line. The Owls, who start two freshmen and feature a third, missed nine of 12 free throws after halftime and were 9 for 33 from the floor in the second half and then 1 for 6 on overtime.

“I think what was at stake had us a little out of our comfort zone,” Cardoza said.

WVU was 7 for 7 at the foul line on overtime and didn’t turn the ball over in the final 19 minutes of the game.

“I think they’re awful young, but I thought the crowd did a great job, too,” Carey said. “When they were shooting foul shots, the crowd was fantastic. You think the crowd doesn’t matter? It does. There were times we needed stops, and they couldn’t hear down there when they had to talk and call out plays. It really does make a difference. I can’t say enough about the crowd. It was fantastic.”

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

]]>