West Virginia begins a busy stretch of four games in six days when it takes on The Citadel in Charleston on Tuesday night.
Eighth-ranked West Virginia hasn’t played since opening with an 83-60 win over Loyola, Md. on Nov. 15. After facing The Citadel, the Mountaineers head to the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., for a Thursday morning game against Long Beach State. The tournament includes No. 19 Clemson, No. 22 Minnesota and UCLA.
“I don’t like it very much but if we’re going to play on TV we have to play when TV has windows so that’s why we ended up with everything kind jammed toward the end of November,” coach Bob Huggins told the school’s official Web site.
The Mountaineers started the second half of their opener on an 11-0 run to break a 31-31 tie. Da’Sean Butler scored 15 of his 26 points after halftime.
“We had no sense of urgency and we were just going through the motions,” Butler said. “Sometimes you need somebody to get everybody going and that’s my job as a senior, to get everybody excited.”
West Virginia remains without sophomore forward Devin Ebanks, who is not with the team due to personal reasons. Backup guard Joe Mazzulla sat out the opener with a sore shoulder and his status for Tuesday is uncertain.
With Mazzulla out, Butler was forced to play more minutes at point guard. He has never averaged more than 1.7 assists per game and had five Nov. 15.
The Mountaineers play an annual game 160 miles away from campus in Charleston for their fan base there. They are 53-19 at the Charleston Civic Center.
“I think we can touch the people in southern West Virginia a little better,” said Huggins, a Morgantown native. “It’s an easier trip for them. We have our fans in the southern part of the state that don’t have an opportunity to get to Morgantown frequently. It gives them a little easier path to see a game. They can buy tickets because it’s not in the season ticket package.”
The Citadel (3-2) is also in the midst of a busy stretch with six games in 10 days. The Bulldogs won two of three over the weekend in the Hispanic Fund Challenge event, sandwiching wins over Eastern Michigan and Maryland-Eastern Shore around a loss to host Missouri State.
Junior guard Cameron Wells is averaging a team-high 16.8 points, while 7-footer Joe Wolfinger is at 15.8. The duo scored 31 in an 88-62 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Sunday, with Wolfinger making all five of his 3-point attempts.
West Virginia leads the series with The Citadel 7-2, winning 63-36 in Morgantown in the last meeting Dec. 20, 2006. The first eight matchups took place from 1950-68 when both schools were in the Southern Conference.