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First things first for 6-1 WVU this week

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

MORGANTOWN -- With a game at SEC power Tennessee looming on the horizon, West Virginia center John Oliver says the Mountaineers won't overlook Wednesday's home game with long-time rival Duquesne.

"We really haven't overlooked anybody this year," Oliver said. "Even in the loss at James Madison, I think it was more of them shooting well and just outplaying us than us overlooking them."

Since the 91-75 defeat at JMU on Dec. 5, the Mountaineers have made quick work of Florida Atlantic (74-61) and Robert Morris (102-86) on Saturday.

"We're just taking them one at a time, like we should be," Oliver said. "I think we're building positively on each game."

In the win over Robert Morris, WVU used several players to apply fullcourt pressure for nearly the entire game. Oliver likes the concept.

"We've worked hard on our press and I think it takes a toll on the other team," Oliver said. "We've got guys like Drew Schifino, who comes in and makes life miserable for the other team. He gives us a huge spark when he comes in.

"We're able to jumpstart our offense off the press."

While the Mountaineers do produce steals, some of which to lead to easy layups and crowd-pleasing dunks, Oliver said that isn't the main purpose of the press.

"The main purpose of the press is to make the other team take as much time as possible bringing the ball up the court," Oliver said. "That leaves them just 20 seconds or so to set up their offense and that's not a lot of time if we play good defense."

n COMING ON: Sophomore center Chris Garnett continues to make his presence felt.

The 6-9, 255-pound Georgia native scored six points in the first half against Robert Morris, helping WVU pull away from the Colonials late in the first half.

"Chris Garnett had a good week of practice," WVU coach Gale Catlett said. "He earned more playing time and he played extremely well in the first half, but didn't do the things he needed to do in the second half.

"But he's a big guy that we need to keep getting better."

Oliver, the starting center, said he noticed Garnett's improvement last week.

"He's getting better," Oliver said. "People don't realize how demanding practice is, but his practice habits are improving.

"He's so big, and his improvement will only make us better."

n GO-TO GUY: Senior power forward Chris Moss continued his outstanding early-season play with a 26-point, 10-rebound effort against Robert Morris.

After Robert Morris had shaved WVU's 21-point halftime lead to eight early in the second half, the Mountaineers ran a play specifically designed for Moss.

Not only did he score the basket, he drew a foul, made the free throw and the Mountaineers steadily pulled away after that.

The 6-8, 225-pound Moss tried to downplay his ability to score in the paint, but did finally say, "I think I can score if it's needed."

Said Catlett, "I thought Chris Moss was magnificent. He helped carry us through some tough spots."

Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at gtalkington@exponent-telegram.com

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