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Needing to play, WVU fills scheduling gap with exhibition

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The it being the question, “why is West Virginia playing an exhibition against Wheeling Jesuit, two games prior to conference play? Aren’t these games supposed to be played in November?”

Well the answer isn’t nearly as complicated or mysterious as it seems.

West Virginia had a gap of ten days between the end of the Pittsburgh game and Coppin State, far too long for a club comprised of nine of the eleven men in the rotation being newcomers or sophomores. The original schedule that gap wasn’t filled, so Huggins made some alterations.

“It gets very monotonous playing against the same guys every day. It’s a chance to practice our stuff against somebody that doesn’t see it, know what’s coming every day,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “We just needed to play.”

It’s not a foreign concept to the program as Huggins said that they’ve done it one other year with the University of Charleston. It’s a necessity if you want to bridge the gap between games because of final schedules and the holidays in makes it difficult to lock down opponents during this time of the year.

“We’re kind of fortunate we got Coppin State and Fordham to come in,” Huggins said of the games scheduled for Dec. 20 and Dec. 23 inside the Coliseum.

In Wheeling Jesuit, West Virginia attempted to secure the best opponent they could for that spot and also gives the Mountaineers an opportunity to square off against an in-state opponent.

“I think it’s good for basketball in our state,” he chimed in.

On the floor, West Virginia hasn’t been able to get together it’s full three hours of practice but has managed to get the team together for stints at a time in order to secure valuable reps.

After reeling off nine straight wins, including back-to-back victories over ACC opponents Virginia and Pittsburgh, the next three including the exhibition will be a valuable time for the younger players on the floor to improve prior to jumping head first into Big 12 Conference play.

One of those newcomers that could stand to benefit is junior D’Angelo Hunter, who arrived at West Virginia over the summer from the junior college level.

A plus sized guard at 6-foot-5, Hunter has seen limited action throughout the year as he has adjusted to the college level and the demands of the press defense on one end, the offensive sets on the other.

“These three games are going to be great for him,” Huggins said.

Outside of its two senior guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, the next most experienced player on the team has yet to see the floor this season as junior Esa Ahmad has been suspended. There is still no direct timetable for his return, but it is expected shortly into the conference slate.

“Waiting on word,” Huggins said.

When he does return, Huggins expects that it will naturally take a game or two for him to get back into the mix but not much more than that.

The good thing that has come out of his suspension is the fact that redshirt sophomores Lamont West and Wesley Harris have been able to see valuable minutes and will form a capable three-man rotation with Ahmad once he is back in the fold.

Tipoff for the matchup with Wheeling Jesuit is set for 2 p.m.

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