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After walloping Rutgers, WVU makes way to Notre Dame


January 8, 2010

MORGANTOWN - Notre Dame's Joyce Center is a place where the Fighting Irish have won a lot of basketball games -nearly 78 percent since it opened in 1968.

It's also a place where the No. 8 West Virginia Mountaineers have lost a lot of basketball games - 82 percent - including nine straight. WVU is 3-14 all-time against the Irish at their place.

What gives?

Article Photos

Cam Thoroughman (2), Truck Bryant (25), Wellington Smith (35) and the rest of the Mountaineers are headed to South Bend, Ind., next to face Notre Dame, a place they traditionally have not played well.


Twenty-one of the 34 games in the all-time series have been played since Notre Dame joined the Big East in 1995. In that time, the Irish have had some talented players, including perennial Big East Player of the Year candidate Luke Harangody, Matt Carroll, Pat Garrity, Troy Murphy, Chris Thomas, and Chris Quinn, to name a few, but this is by no means North Carolina-type pedigree.

Still, West Virginia, which plays at Notre Dame at 8 p.m. Saturday, hasn't won in South Bend since 1996.

Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins was talking about how he was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time around legendary Marquette coach Al McGuire early in his career and pick his brain on a lot of subjects, including this one.

Fact Box

The West Virginia-Notre Dame begins at 8 p.m. and will be televised by ESPNU.

''I asked Al, 'When did you know that you guys at Marquette really knew you had it going?' He said, 'when we walked into any venue without fear.'

''If we're afraid to go to the Joyce Center, then we're not where I think we are. I told them after the Purdue game, 'It was loud in there, but (Purdue's fans) didn't block a shot, they didn't get a rebound, they didn't make a free throw. All they did was just stand there and scream. I mean, hell, I don't know how that makes you miss shots.''

Harangody is averaging 25 points and 9.8 rebounds per game this season for the Irish (13-3 overall, 3-1 Big East) after leading the league in scoring and finishing second in rebounding last season (23.8 and 11.8). Barring injury, he has a chance to overtake Syracuse's Lawrence Moten, who scored 1,405 career points in league games, as the league's all-time leading scorer. Harangody already has one league Player of the Year award as a sophomore.

West Virginia did beat Notre Dame twice last season - both by double digits - once in Morgantown and in the Big East Tournament.

Men in Black

The Mountaineers debuted a new color scheme on their uniforms during their beatdown of Rutgers on Wednesday night at the Coliseum.

The unis were all black with gold stenciled blue numbers and full gold v-neck collars. They accessorized with black Nike shoes.

It seemed an odd time to debut them because it wasn't necessarily a marquee game, it wasn't nationally televised, and it was the last time the Coliseum won't be sold out all season .

''Because if I would have broke them out in a game we would have lost, we'd have never worn them again,'' said Huggins, who must have been able to foresee the Mountaineers beating the Scarlet Knights by 34 points.

Don't think that's true?

''I like these,'' West Virginia point guard Truck Bryant said. ''Good thing we won by a lot because if we'd lost, Coach said we were never wearing them again.''

Guard/forward Da'Sean Butler subscribed to the theory that if you look good, you play good.

''I want to keep wearing them,'' he said. ''If we keep playing the way we're playing, I'll wear them all night, that's fine with me.''

For what it's worth, here's the breakdown of the Mountaineers record this season in various colors: White and gold (3-0); Blue (5-1); Black (1-0).

More on Truck

It's easy to see the relationship between Bryant and Huggins has been acrimonious for much of the time Bryant has spent in Morgantown, but Huggins knows he'll crack his sophomore point guard's stubbornness sooner than later.

''Do you honest to God think that one of those guys is going to lay it down with me around?'' Huggins asked. ''That isn't going to happen. That hasn't happened in 28 years, and it's not going to happen now.

''I remember (last) year, Jay (Jacobs, WVU's color commentator) said, 'have you lost him?' I said, 'just watch, just sit over there and watch, see if I lost him.' We can try to recruit competitive kids.''

After a big performance Wednesday that followed two corner-turning practices, is it time to declare Bryant 'back?'

''It's an everyday thing,'' Huggins said. ''I think he played really well because he was into playing really well. He practiced really well.''

Stay tuned.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at:

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