Short-handed WVU hopes to tame Duquesne
High on West Virginia’s agenda when it visits Duquesne tonight at Palumbo Center is to keep tabs on energetic Dukes guard Aaron Jackson, who is coming off a career-high 36-point effort at Radford.
Jackson’s rousing performance was made even more electrifying when he hit 15 of 17 shots to tie a school record for highest field-goal percentage in a game.
The Mountaineers are coming off a game against another hot player, Davidson sharpshooter Stephen Curry.
West Virginia lost that game Tuesday, 68-65, to the 23rd-ranked Wildcats in the Jimmy V Classic in New York.
Curry, the nation’s leading scorer, finished four points below his average of 31 after converting just 9 of 27 shots.
West Virginia was without two injured starters – 6-foot-6 forward Alex Ruoff (back) – the team’s second-leading scorer – and point guard Joe Mazzulla (shoulder).
“I would anticipate they wouldn’t go,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said Friday, referring to their playing status for tonight’s game, the 84th meeting between non-conference opponents West Virginia (6-2) and Duquesne (5-2) and the 36th year in a row the teams have met. “If they heal up and can play in another 24 hours, that’s another story. But the way it is right now, I don’t think they can go.”
With or without the experienced duo, West Virginia must contend with the 6-4 Jackson, who is averaging 17.9 points and has flirted with a pair of triple-doubles this season before leading Duquesne to a 94-75 victory over Radford on Thursday, the Dukes’ third road win of the season.
Huggins sees few similarities in Curry and Jackson.
“They’re totally different,” he said. “Curry’s more of a jump-shooter. Jackson made some 3s (5 for 6 against Radford), and he’s very capable of making 3s. But I think his strength is attacking the rim. He just puts so much pressure on the rim. He’s got great speed with the ball. He very well could be the fastest guy we’ve played against to this point.”
It is becoming increasingly evident to Duquesne coach Ron Everhart that teams are keying on Jackson, the Dukes’ only senior. Thurd-ranked Pitt’s stifling defense limited Jackson, Duquesne’s leading scorer, to a season-low six points Dec. 3.
“Everybody’s going to try to shut him down because he’s a senior, he’s the leader on our team, and he’s a kid that has the ball in his hands more often than not,” Everhart said. “It wouldn’t surprise me (tonight) to see a box-and-one on him.”
West Virginia still has experience in its lineup, even if Ruoff, the team’s lone senior, and/or Mazzulla are forced to sit again.
The leading scorer is junior forward Da’Sean Butler, who had a career-high 24 points and 14 rebounds against Davidson.
Duquesne, which earlier lost promising 6-8 freshman forward Rodrigo Peggau to recurring knee pain, which will require a third surgery, will welcome the return of 6-8 forward David Theis. The sophomore sat out the past two games with a bruised kidney.