Marist first of WVU’s ‘Old Spice’ opponents

At least it’s not Gonzaga!

West Virginia’s last two basketball games have been against the Gonzaga Bulldogs, a team that sharpened its canine teeth on the hide of the Mountaineers. Gonzaga drilled West Virginia, 77-54, in the 2012 NCAA tournament. And then Zags hammered the confused and at times listless Mountaineers, 84-50, in the midnight massacre in Spokane to open this season.

Deniz Kilicli tries to defend a Gonzaga player. Kilicli fouled out in the game.

Coach Bob Huggins has had his way with his troops in the last week or so. West Virginia played on Monday the 12th and now the Old Spice Tournament begins on Thanksgiving Thursday, Nov. 22 with an opening round game in central Florida against the Marist Red Foxes.

The eight-team tournament is at the Milk House in Kissimmee. The WVU vs. Marist game will be televised on both ESPN2 and ESPN3.

Marist is only 1-2 so far with losses to in-state rivals Stony Brook and Colgate and a win at home against Columbia.

Huggins will have six practice “sessions” with his players. He gave them off on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the West Coast debacle against Gonzaga.

About all the Mountaineers did much of at Gonzaga was commit personal fouls. The score by halftime was 45-18 after the Zags had scored 16 straight points in the beginning to be winging along safely in front at 17-2.

All the new faces — starters Aaric Murray, Juwan Staten, and Matt Humphrey and freshmen Terry Henderson and Eron Harris — got generous playing time. Huggins tried Keaton Miles, Gary Browne, and Kevin Noreen off his bench. Noreen played only seven minutes and managed to foul out. Deniz Kilicli played a lot more minutes than Noreen and he also fouled out.

Dominique Rutledge stayed put on the bench and wasn’t brought to the carnage on the floor.

Volodymyr Gerun, the center from the Ukraine , still has five more games to sit out (as mandated by the NCAA) before he can play for the first time on Saturday, Dec. 8 against Virginia Tech.

Marist has not ever been mentioned in the same breath with Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, or Syracuse. It has little basketball tradition. And this season’s team seems destined to add to that lack of tradition.

The next Old Spice game is on Friday. If West Virginia beats the Red Foxes, it will meet the winner of the Vanderbilt vs. Davidson game. Both those teams have disciplined personnel who know the value of team play and team responsibility.

It was Davidson with Stephen Curry that defeated West Virginia in New York City a few short seasons ago. Vandy is an annual entry in the NCAA tournament.

The other four-team bracket in the tournament has Clemson facing Gonzaga and Texas-El Paso playing Oklahoma in the first round.

Could an active West Virginia team actually meet Gonzaga in Sunday’s last round of the tournament?

Following the three games in the Florida-based tournament, Huggins and company will finally come home to the Coliseum to play Virginia Military on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

For now, it’s tournament basketball. In the middle of Florida. And Gonzaga is in the other bracket and might be missed by the Mountaineers.

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