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Mountaineers Respect Bears

WVU ready for Morgan State

March 19, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman knows what his team is up against when it faces West Virginia at 12:15 this afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at HSBC Arena.

Basically, it's standing at the foot of the Appalachians, and the John Denver CD is cued.

Yet, his guys are planning to take the court anyway.

''That's the beauty of this tournament is that on any given night, anybody can beat anybody,'' Bozeman said. ''You're allowed to dream here.

''As I told the guys, the only people that don't have a chance are the people that aren't here.''

So the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Bears are carrying a great attitude into the game, but might they need more than that to slay the kind of dragon that just won a Big East Conference Tournament?

''They will wear you down,'' Bozeman said. ''They will beat you up, so to speak. I don't mean that in a negative way. They're a tough team, a tough-minded team. Their coach is tough minded. They can take you out of what you want to do offensively, and they'll push the ball at you.

''So it's a challenge. But that's what this is all about. Who doesn't have a challenge? Whether you are a top team or a lower-seeded team, you have a challenge. You have a challenge to respond because every team earned the right to be here.''

The leader for the Bears is high-scoring senior Reggie Holmes, the MEAC Player of the Year. He averaged 21.9 points per game this season and scored 30 or more six times.

''He's a very good player,'' West Virginia forward Da'Sean Butler said. ''He can shoot the ball. He's of the best shooters in the country, one of the best scorers in the country (10th). Overall, he's just a really, really good player.''

Holmes is the all-time leading scorer at Morgan State with 2,049 points.

DeWayne Jackson is a 6-foot-8 freshman forward who averaged 10.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

''I don't know how he continues to get guys that are as good as what they are,'' West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of Bozeman. ''Jackson, to me, is going to be on the All-Freshman Team in any league in the country. He's very good.''

This kind of inside-outside game, as 6-9 red-shirt sophomore forward Kevin Thompson averages 12.8 points and 11.9 rebounds, is troubling for opponents.

''They play together, they play hard,'' Huggins noticed. '' When they get making shots, they're very good. They're like everybody else. What they do conceptually is hard to guard because they stretch you so much because they can makes shots and they've got big people inside that can score the ball.''

Don't misunderstand. The Mountaineers are still a decided favorite. And they've got some pretty special players too.

Holmes was saying he'd caught more than one WVU game this season. It seemed like they always ended the same way.

''What catches my eye,'' Holmes said, ''is Da'Sean Butler. He's just a great leader. When the game's on the line, they go to him.''

What does Bozeman think of Butler?

''He's one of the top players in the country,'' the coach said, ''and he'll play 82 games next year.''

He's hoping to play six more this year first.

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