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WVU looks to climb from BE cellar tonight

From Staff Reports

Time is running out for West Virginia.

The Mountaineers are in real danger of missing the Big East Tournament for the first time since joining the league in 1995-96. At 8-12 overall and 1-7 in the conference play, WVU trails Seton Hall (11-9, 4-4) by three games for the last tournament qualifier spot in the Big East West Division standings.

With just eight league games remaining, victories are at a premium. An opportunity to begin its climb from the cellar comes tonight on Big Monday when West Virginia visits Syracuse (17-6, 6-3).

Tip-off at the Carrier Dome is 7 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN.

Late last week, it appeared the Orangemen would be without leading scorer Preston Shumpert, due to an eye injury. Shumpert, however, returned Saturday and scored 21 points in an 82-74 upset loss to Rutgers.

Shumpert is averaging 20.4 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Orangemen, who have struggled in recent weeks. DeShaun Williams follows at 18.5 points a game, and Kueth Duany is averaging 14 points.

In Syracuse's 75-69 win over West Virginia at the Coliseum on Jan. 12, Shumpert again poured in 21 points. He scored eight points during a decisive 15-0 second half run. Shumpert also led Syracuse with 11 rebounds.

West Virginia, coming off Saturday's 84-77 loss at Georgetown, is led by senior forward Chris Moss, who is averaging 18.6 points and 8.6 rebounds. Freshman point guard Jonathan Hargett follows at 14.1 points a game, and senior shooting guard Lionel Armstead is averaging 10.8 points.

The Mountaineers snapped a nine-game losing streak and captured their first Big East victory of the season on Wednesday, downing Providence, 89-81, at home.

West Virginia has played the past two games without head coach Gale Catlett, who is on a medical leave of absence. Assistant coach Drew Catlett has taken over head coaching duties in his uncle's absence.

It was undetermined Sunday if Gale Catlett would return tonight.

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