Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mitchell's 31 Sends Mountaineers to Puerto Rico Tip-Off Final

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, November 19, 2010

Coach Bob Huggins is right where he wants to be: at the school for which he played in younger days, now coaching what appears to be another Top 15 team at West Virginia.

After reaching the Final Four in last year's NCAA tourney (ousted by Duke in a semifinal game, 78-57), the Mountaineers have the nucleus of a strong contender in the Big East and beyond. Departed from last year's squad is Da'Senn Butler, who was a high-profile scored and team leader. Butler, injured during the NCAA tournament, was drafted by the Miami Heat and subsequently waived, still rehabbing from a serious knee injury.

On the brighter side, senior Casey Mitchell has been elevated from bench-warmer to starter. Last season, Mitchell, a 6'4" guard out of Savannah, Georgia, averaged only eight minutes per game, but on Friday played 34 impressive minutes as the Mountaineers outlasted Vanderbilt, 74-71, thanks, in large part, to Mitchell's 31 points and his key three-pointer with 3.8 seconds left to play.

Mitchell was 9-for-15 from the field, including 6 of 12 three-pointers and 7-of-8 from the foul line. An exceptional foul shooter, Mitchell's lone miss was his first of the season, in 16 trips to the line.

West Virginia is off to a 3-0 start, but they face a stiff test when they play Minnesota on Sunday night. The Golden Gophers knocked off North Carolina in their semi-final round game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, 72-67.

The final will be televised live on ESPN2 at 7:30 pm ET.

Notable: Xavier looks like a Top 25 team for sure, as long as Tu Holloway keeps up his torrid scoring pace. Holloway poured in a career-high 28 points in the Musketeers 86-73 win over Iowa. In his previous two games this season - each Xavier wins - he tallied 25 and 24 points.

Jeremy Hazell is back for his senior year at Seton Hall, and he's heating up from beyond the arc. Hazell hit 5-of-6 treys en route to 27 points and an 83-78 win over Alabama. In three games this season, Hazell is nailing three-pointers at a rate of 64.7%.

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