West Virginia is hoping for a better result this week in Indiana compared to last week. Judging by its past results in South Bend, that may not be likely.
The eighth-ranked Mountaineers will try to win on the road against Notre Dame for the first time in 23 years when the Big East rivals meet Saturday night.
West Virginia (12-1, 3-0) has lost 10 straight games in South Bend since a 57-55 win Jan. 17, 1987. The teams did not play at Notre Dame (13-3, 2-1) last season as the Mountaineers won two meetings by double digits, including a 74-62 victory in the second round of the Big East tournament.
Coach Bob Huggins expects a much more difficult contest Saturday.
“The first thing (assistant) Billy Hahn said when we came into the locker room is Notre Dame is better than they were a year ago,” Huggins told West Virginia’s official athletics Web site after an 86-52 rout of Rutgers on Wednesday. “They take better shots. They had a tendency a year ago to force some shots and probably had some guys that didn’t guard as well as they’re guarding right now.”
Wednesday’s victory was the Mountaineers’ first game since a 77-62 loss at then-No. 4 Purdue last Friday. West Virginia turned in a much better effort against the Scarlet Knights with seven turnovers compared to 18 against the Boilermakers.
One area of concern, though, was how Rutgers forward Jonathan Mitchell made 7 of 8 shots for 18 points. Purdue big man JaJuan Johnson had 25 points and 10 boards last week against West Virginia.
The Mountaineers’ interior defense will be tested once again by Big East leading scorer Luke Harangody, who is averaging 25.0 points. Harangody averaged 26.5 points in last season’s two losses to West Virginia.
The Fighting Irish relied on their star to win 74-73 at South Florida on Tuesday. Harangody drew a foul with 1.9 seconds left and made one free throw to snap a tie.
“We wanted him to go and make a play, and he did,” coach Mike Brey said. “You’re going to win or lose a game with your best player’s hands on the ball.”
Harangody scored a season-high 36 points and will become the eighth player in Notre Dame history to make his 100th start Saturday. He is tied for second on Notre Dame’s all-time scoring list with Adrian Dantley with 2,223 points.
Brey earned his 300th victory Tuesday and is 11-3 against West Virginia.
Huggins re-installed Darryl Bryant as his starting point guard job back after Bryant came off the bench the previous four games. Bryant responded with 15 points Wednesday.
“I was down on myself, but I just wanted to play better and I know that my team needed me,” Bryant said. “I just came to practice ready to work and ready to get better. I just needed to play harder and run the team and that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of the year, honestly.”
Kevin Jones led the Mountaineers with 19 points and Da’Sean Butler added 15 for West Virginia, which shot 49.3 percent.
“I thought we continued to play and I thought everyone that we put into the game continued to play,” Huggins said.