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Conference honors fire up WVU heading into Big East Tournament

By Josh Sickles
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins isn't sure how Jim Calhoun's return to the Connecticut bench affects the Huskies, but it could be a rallying point.

"Honestly," the West Virginia coach said. "I think everybody, at this time of the year, tries to rally around something."

The Mountaineers face Connecticut in the second round of the Big East Tournament at noon Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York, and WVU will play with a chip on its shoulder following what it considers a snub of its senior standout.

Marquette forward Jae Crowder beat out WVU forward Kevin Jones for Big East Player of the Year honors, which were announced Tuesday. Both were named to the All-Big East first team Monday; Crowder was a unanimous selection, foreshadowing yesterday's result.

Jones led the conference in scoring (20.0 ppg) and rebounding (11.2). Crowder was third in scoring (17.6) and ninth in rebounding (7.9) but led Marquette to a 14-4 record in Big East play and the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament. WVU was 9-9 to claim the eighth seed.

Huggins said earlier this season that there should be an investigation if Jones isn't named Player of the Year.

"Obviously," Huggins said, "there were some people who didn't think he was near as good as we think he is or didn't have the year we thought he did."

Senior guard Truck Bryant echoed those sentiments Monday.

"I think 110 percent that KJ deserves Big East Player of the Year," he said. "He averaged 20 and 10 throughout the whole Big East season. Not a lot of people do that."

Connecticut (19-12), which advanced with a 81-67 win Tuesday over last-place DePaul, may be the most talented team in the conference. Guard Jeremy Lamb and center Andre Drummond are considered NBA lottery picks.

They were without their Hall of Fame coach for two stretches this season — once for an NCAA suspension, then after he had back surgery. He returned for Saturday's victory against Pitt and led the team yesterday, too.

If the Mountaineers (19-12) win Wednesday, they'll face No. 1 seed Syracuse in Thursday's quarterfinals.

"We're playing the two most talented teams the first two games — provided we win the first one," Huggins said. "It's an opportunity."

Mountaineers gameday

Big East Tournament second round

West Virginia vs. Connecticut

When/where: Noon Wednesday/Madison Square Garden, New York

TV/radio: ESPN/WVAQ-FM (101.9), WBGG-AM (970), Mountaineer Sports Network

Records: Connecticut 19-12, West Virginia 19-12

Series: UConn leads, 15-5

Favorite: Pick'em

Players to watch

UConn: Jeremy Lamb, So., G — First-team All-Big East pick had a game-high 25 points in a 64-57 win over visiting West Virginia on Jan. 9.

WVU: Truck Bryant, Sr., G — Looking to bounce back from an eight-point effort (on 2-of-13 shooting) in the loss at Connecticut.



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