A recurring element in SU’s slide of six losses in eight games has been deadeye three-point shooting by the opposition, as the Orange have let them fall at an alarming 46% clip (55-117) in the collective defeats. In each loss, SU has allowed at least six threes. Contested or open, from 40 feet away or just beyond the arc, the Orange’s perimeter defense over the last month has been anemic at best and embarrassing at worst. Some good news comes on Monday, though, as their opponent, the West Virginia Mountaineers, offers a much more limited three-point arsenal. Casey Mitchell, the team’s leading scorer, can shoot it, but he’s been on a cold streak, having gone just 7-27 (26%) over his last six games from long range. Dalton Pepper is a good shooter as well, but isn’t a true threat in the mold of the Kyle Kurics and Preston Knowleses of the world.
While Mitchell is its leading scorer, West Virginia thrives on bruisers Kevin Jones, John Flowers, and Deniz Kilicli. Cam Thoroughman, while not as talented, epitomizes the physical Big East style every bit as Rick Jackson does – just watch the video below. The tough style of play is exemplified in their offensive rebounding percentage of 40.6%, the sixth-best rate in the nation.
To navigate that challenge, Rick Jackson will have to adjust to the attention defenses have devoted to him recently and restate his case as the conference’s best rebounder. He can’t do it alone, though – CJ Fair will have to step up once again, especially with Baye Moussa Keita being hampered by a wrist problem.
West Virginia has a 16-8 record at present, and the Mountaineers and Orange have four wins against the top 50 in RPI to their record (*aside – that SU win over Notre Dame win is looking better by the week). With a home crowd behind them and an unsightly four-game home losing streak on their resume if they lose and possible drop from the rankings, the Orange should have plenty of motivation to pull this one out. While SU likes to run, the Mountaineers prefer a slower pace (as in 63 possessions per game, good for 304th out of 345 D-I schools), so it shouldn’t be very difficult to get Bob Huggins and his crew out of its comfort zone. It looks like tonight is the night for the Orange to win again at the Dome.