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WVU, Ohio St. should become annual event

CLEVELAND – It’s not your run-of-the mill out-of-conference game for the West Virginia University men’s basketball team today.

The Mountaineers face Ohio State at noon at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland. The two nationally-ranked teams don’t meet very often, although being bordering states.

This marks only the 17th meeting between the two schools, the last coming on Jan. 23, 2010, with the Mountaineers prevailing 71-65. Ohio State leads the all-time series, which began in 1940, 9-7. WVU, however, has owned the series as of late, winning seven of the last eight.

Both are off to banner starts this year.

Ohio State is ranked No. 2 in the latest AP poll, on the strength of its 11-1 mark. Chris Holtmann’s charges own marquee wins over Kentucky, Villanova an North Carolina. The Buckeyes lone blemish came on the road against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

WVU, meanwhile, is ranked No. 22, thanks to its 10-1 mark. The Mountaineers’ only setback was a 70-68 reversal against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. Coach Bob Huggins’ squad has posted notable wins over rival Pitt, Wichita State and Rhode Island.

The Mountaineers’ 11 opponents thus far boast a combined .757 winning percentage. That is the best in the country.

One of the intriguing sidelights today will be the battle in the paint as three talented big men will take the floor.

WVU has been sparked by the post play of freshman Oscar Tshiebwe and sophomore Derek Culver. Ohio State counters with a slimmed-down and much-improved Kaleb Wesson.

Tshiebwe leads the Mountaineers in scoring at 12.9 ppg while also grabbing 9 boards a game. Culver leads the team with 9.4 rebounds a contest and is second on the team in scoring at 11.4 ppg.

Wesson, meanwhile, is enjoying a sparkling senior year, after testing the NBA waters. He tops the Buckeyes with 13.9 points and 9 rebounds a game.

Holtmann has also received an immediate boost from freshman D.J. Carton. The talented point guard is averaging 11.1 points and 3 assists per game.

This is a mid-season non-conference game that moves the needle. It would be nice if it became an annual happening.

After battling the Buckeyes, WVU enters Big 12 play with an acid road test Saturday at Kansas. Two days later, the Mountaineers face Oklahoma State in Stillwater.

Of local Mountaineer interest, Wheeling Central’s Chase Harler has played in all 11 games, starting one. He is averaging some 13 minutes and 4 points a contest.

Cameron product Logan Routt has also played in all 11 games. He is seeing 8 minutes of court time each contest.

BUBBA’S BITS

DANNY SANCOMB has quickly turned around the fortunes of the Cal (Pa.) basketball team. The Vulcans are now 7-4 with two of the losses by one point and another by two points. The former Wheeling Jesuit University mentor sometimes suited up just six players last winter, his rookie campaign with the Vulcans. Cal plays Pitt-Johnstown Friday.

THE CANCER Research Classic plays out Friday and Saturday at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling. It is a must-see for hoop junkies as the nation’s best prep talent will be showcased. Kudos go out to CRC founder and director Dr. Gregory Merrick for his passionate hoop efforts while also promoting men’s health.

FORMER OHIO Valley football and basketball official Paul Vargo has been a longtime college grid official. The former Bishop Donahue High principal is assigned to the ACC crew that will be working the Liberty Bowl. The game will be played Dec. 31, pitting Navy vs. Kansas State. Kickoff is set for 3:45 p.m. on ESPN.

THE AUSTIN College women’s basketball team is off to an 8-0 start this season. The Sherman, Texas-based Kangaroos are coached by Michelle Bielanski Filander. The former St. John Central hoop great is in her 10th year at the Austin helm. She is also the school’s assistant athletic director. The 1997 SJC grad tallied 1,436 points in her Lady Irish career, earning a hoop scholarship to Robert Morris.

OHIO STATE, Clemson and Alabama all cleaned up in the early college football signing period last week. That comes as no surprise. What is shocking is that USC had the worst recruiting class in the PAC 12. How the mighty have fallen.

IT’S LONG overdue for Chuck Howley to gain induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. The Warwood native and former WVU star owns the distinction of being the only player to earn MVP honors for a losing team in the Super Bowl. The Dallas Cowboy great is now 83 years of age living in Willis Point, Texas.

JIM CRUTCHFIELD has Nova Southeastern enjoying another stellar season. The Sharks have won eight of nine starts for the former West Liberty University coaching icon.

VINCENT LEVI served as the back judge for the West Virginia Class AAA state championship earlier this month on Wheeling Island. Martinsburg, as usual, prevailed in the title tilt. Levi is a 2002 Martins Ferry High grad and lives in St. Clairsville. Weirton’s T.J. Brancazio was the referee for the contest.

JOANNA BERNABEI’S Boston College Eagles reached Christmas break with a 7-5 record. The former Weirton Madonna great has her Eagles back in action today, hosting North Carolina State.

THE UNIVERSITY of North Alabama women’s basketball team is 9-2. The Lions, coached by Bellaire High product and former West Liberty hoopster Missy Tiber, visit Iowa State Monday.

LOUISIANA TECH defeated Miami (Fl.) 14-0 Thursday in the Independence Bowl. Todd Fitch is Tech’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He is a Bellaire High and Ohio Wesleyan grad. The Bulldogs, coached by Skip Holtz (Lou’s son), finished with a 10-3 mark.

OUR PRAYERS and condolences go out to the family of Harold (Buzzy) Donahue who died late last week after a courageous battle against cancer. Buzzy was the longtime athletic director at St. John Central while also serving in many coaching capacities over the years at his alma mater. There was no more passionate Fighting Irish supporter than Buzzy Donahue.

I WANT to wish all our readers a safe and prosperous New Year.

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