The West Virginia Mountaineers men’s basketball team will play on Thanksgiving day for only the third time in program history this Thursday. WVU will be taking on the Red Foxes of Marist in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
The Mountaineers have only recently began playing games on Thanksgiving. The holiday has been recognized as a federal holiday occurring on the 4th Thursday of every November since 1941. In that 72 year span, the Mountaineers have played on Thanksgiving only three times. The previous two Thanksgiving match-ups were 2009 against Long Beach State and 2006 against Montana. Let’s take a quick look back at those games.
November 23, 2006: Montana vs West Virginia in the Old Spice Classic (Orlando, FL)
Then head coach John Beilein led the 2006-07 WVU Mountaineers into the Old Spice Classic to face the Montana Grizzlies. The 06-07 squad featured the starting line-up of:
- C Rob Summers
- F Joe Alexander
- F Frank Young
- G Alex Ruoff
- G Darris Nichols
Coach Beilein’s squad was heavily three point oriented, taking 23 shots from beyond the arc, making 10 of those shots (43%). The Mountaineers would have to work hard to find open shots against a long Montana team that started 4 forwards against the smaller WVU line-up. The Mountaineers would get big contributions from Frank Young (21 points) and Joe Alexander (18 points).
West Virginia would take a 34-27 lead at halftime before pulling away in the second half for a 73-56 win. The win would be the 4th of 27 Mountaineers wins that season en route to a NIT Championship.
November 26, 2009: Long Beach State vs West Virginia in the 76 Classic (Anaheim, CA)
Coach Bob Huggins took the 8th ranked Mountaineers out to Anaheim to pursue a 76 Classic Tournament title. The first team in the way of West Virginia’s run at the title was the Long Beach State 49ers. Matched up with an inferior opponent, coach Huggins took the game as an opportunity to get a lot of playing time for his bench players. WVU would play 10 players for more than 10 minutes. The starting 5 for this game were:
- F Wellington Smith
- F Kevin Jones
- F Da’Sean Butler
- G Casey Mitchell
- G Truck Bryant
The Mountaineers forced LBSU into 22 turnovers, allowing WVU to pull away early. The Mountaineers got a huge game from Casey Mitchell, who scored 18 points on 5 of 9 shooting (4 of 7 from three point range). The Mountaineers beat down Long Beach State, 85-62.
This year’s Thanksgiving match-up promises to be just as lopsided as the two previous games. Last year, Marist finished 14-18 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. So far this year, Marist is 1-2 with losses at home to Stoney Brook and on the road against Colgate.
West Virginia tips off with Marist at 12 PM on Thanksgiving.