No. 18 WVU welcomes No. 15 Virginia
Battle of Top 20 teams high point Mountaineers’ schedule
MORGANTOWN — Fans attending tonight’s 7 p.m. showdown between No. 15 Virginia (8-0) and No. 18 West Virginia (7-1) will get to see something that hasn’t happened in more than four decades.
A Cavaliers’ team playing inside the Coliseum.
Virginia makes its first visit to Morgantown since the 1985 NIT and first regular season visit since 1976. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU with Jason Benetti and Dino Gaudio providing the commentary.
This will be the 19th meeting between the two border state institutions. Each team has won nine meetings in the series. Last year, WVU won 66-57 at then-No. 6 Virginia, marking the Mountaineers’ first true non-conference road win over a top-10 ranked team since winning at No. 5 Kentucky in 1957.
“What would you like to know?” veteran head coach Bob Huggins quipped when asked about Virginia. “About the same, I think. They’re going to be about the same. (Kyle) Guy obviously shoots the ball well. They don’t have an experienced point guard like a year ago.”
A late 7-0 run propelled the Old Gold and Blue to their victory at the John Paul Jones Arena — which snapped the Cavaliers’ 24-game home winning streak, the sixth longest in the country.
Guy tallied seven points in that game, but has become Virginia’s go-to scoring so far this season, averaging 16.6 points per game. Tony Bennett’s team returns three starters from that squad as well.
Joining Guy in the starting lineup will be seniors Isaiah Wilkins and Devon Hall and junior Jack Salt. Wilkins, who scored seven points a year ago, leads the team with 6.8 rebounds per game and chips in 8.6 points.
Hall is second in scoring (11.8 ppg) and will join Guy and sophomore Ty Jerome (7.1) at the guard slots. The 6-foot-10 Salt (3.1) will line up at center.
“A lot is said about their defense,” continued Huggins. “But, they control the game with their offense. You don’t want to play defense for 30 seconds and then go down and take a quick shot. We were able to speed them up last year.
“But, two years ago we made too many bonehead plays. You can’t make bonehead plays and expect to beat this team.”
Huggins will counter with a starting five that will have seniors Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. at the guards with sophomores Sagaba Konate, Wesley Harris and Lamont West at the forwards.
Carter, who became the school’s all-time leader in career steals in last week’s win over NJIT, is averaging 19 points and nearly five rebounds per game while Miles, who needs 34 points to reach 1,000 in his career in Morgantown, chips in 14.9 points per outing.
West and reserve James ‘Beetle’ Bolden are the Mountaineers other double digit performers, averaging 10.5 and 11.6 points respectively.
Defensively, Virginia will have to find a way to score inside against Konate (9.6 pg, 6-1 rg), who leads the team with 25 blocked shots in seven games played and will have to find a way to keep Harris (8.0 pg) off the offensive glass – the 6-foot-8 forward leads the team with 18 offensive rebounds.
As usual fans can expect Huggins to go to his bench early and often. Freshman Teddy Allen (7.9), sophomore Chase Harler (4.3), junior D’Angelo Hunter (2.3) and sophomores Logan Routt (1.8) and Maciej Bender (1.4) will see time.
Tonight’s game will be the last against the two schools for the foreseeable future as no game is slated for next year.
“This is it,” said Huggins. “They have another series beginning next year so we’re not going to play. I try to play Virginia Tech, Pitt and Virginia because that’s who I think our fans want to see.
“I don’t think it’s sold out yet, but I can’t imagine that it won’t be.”
With the NCAA selection committee putting a priority on teams playing strong non-conference games, tonight’s contest could go a long way in helping one, or both, teams when March Madness rolls around.
“As long as we both stay ranked, it’s a great win for either team,” said the coach. “But, we’re going to play ranked teams the rest of the year once we get in the conference. The league’s hard. It’s the hardest league I’ve been in.”