|Points Per Game||74.5||86.2|
|Field Goal %||42.1||50.8|
|Rebounds Per Game||40.2||39.2|
|Assists Per Game||13.1||19.8|
|Blocks Per Game||4.2||5.9|
|Steals Per Game||5.7||5.9|
The West Virginia Mountaineers (9-10) head to Knoxville to take on the No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers (17-1) in the Big 12/ SEC Challenge. WVU leads the all time series 5-3. All three losses came were against a ranked Vols squad.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins is 2-1 against Tennessee. The only loss came in his first year in Morgantown (2007-08) at the first annual Legends Classic inside Prudential Center, former home of the New Jersey Nets
WVU is 5-8 all-time against AP-No. 1 teams. WVU has won two of its last three games against AP-No. 1 teams: 89-68 win over No. 1 Baylor on Jan. 10, 2017 and 74-63 over No. 1 Kansas on Jan. 12, 2016. WVU defeated No. 1 (USA Today)/No. 2 (AP) Kansas, 85-69, on Jan. 24, 2017.
WVU is 1-4 SEC/Big 12 Challenge, while Tennessee sits at 3-1. WVU fell to Kentucky last season at home, defeated Texas A&M in Morgantown in 2016-17, lost at Florida in 2015-16, fell to LSU at home in 2014-15 and lost at Missouri in 2013-14.
Tennessee’s lone loss on the season came to then, second ranked Kansas 87-81 in the NIT Season Tip-Off title game. Three weeks later, they beat No. 1 ranked Gonzaga, currently fourth, in the Air Force Reserve Jerry Colangelo Classic.
The Vols are on a 13-game winning streak including a road conference overtime win Monday night against in-state rival Vanderbilt 88-83. Tennessee leading scorer Grant Williams (20.3 ppg – leads SEC) had a career high 43 points breaking his previous career high of 37 set a year ago at Vanderbilt.
Williams and his teammate Admiral Schofield both earned a spot on the 25-man Wooden Award Mid-season Watch List. Schofield is the SEC’s fifth-leading scorer (16.7 ppg) and although shooting 42% from 3-point range on the season, he is 1-10 from behind the arc the last two games.
Point guard Jordan Bone owns the sixth-best assist/turnover ratio at 3.83 (6.1 during SEC play) in Division I and is averaging 11.3 points during league games.
Senior forward Kyle Alexander is the SEC’s third-leading rebounder during conference play, averaging 9.2 rebounds per game.
During league play, SEC Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jordan Bowden ranks second on the team and eighth in the SEC with 16.3 points per game.
West Virginia was 0-5 in the Big 12 before they knocked off the seventh ranked Jayhawks. It was a nice surprise after they were pummeled by 31 against TCU in the previous game. Yet, they were only a possession or two away from having a .500 or above conference record and continued to improve.
There was some optimism after the Kansas win. The Mountaineers were seemingly putting the pieces together without Sagaba Konate and remained home for a Monday night game against Baylor.
West Virginia stumbled, losing to the Bears 87-73. WVU hit just 10-26 from around the rim, was out-rebounded by 10 and the Bears took advantage of their 16 offensive rebounds, getting 20 second chance points.
There hasn’t been a Mountaineer with any consistency this season and the Big 12 hasn’t been kind to West Virginia.
Lamont West has averaged 5.6 points in the last three games going 5-15 from the field and 1-8 from three and Chase Harler is 2-15 from three-point range in league play.
After setting back-to-back career highs, 18 and 20 points, in the final games of the non-conference schedule, Wes Harris has averaged 4.9 points per game.
Esa Ahmad’s only double figured game in conference play came against Texas (10) and has 16 turnovers to just 9 assists.
Freshman Derek Culver put up 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds against Oklahoma State. However, in the last two games, he is just 5-18 from the field and had a season low three points against Baylor Monday night.
A healthier Beetle Bolden is averaging 20 points in the last four games after being shutout at Kansas State. Beetle has been a dynamic scorer, hitting shots from all over the floor, but early foul trouble leaves the Mountaineer offense vulnerable and has led to early double-digit deficits.
Jermaine Haley has been a steady hand since taking over as starting point guard. Haley is one of the best finishers around the rim and the coaching staff has been trying to get him to be more aggressive towards the basket.
There’s no doubt the Mountaineers will be walking into a hostile environment. They’ll be playing in front of a fan base clamoring for some sort of revenge after the WVU football team cruised past the Volunteers in the opening game of the season.
Tennessee is favored by 14.5 and they’re expected to cover; however, West Virginia has several capable shooters that can get hot and keep the Mountaineers within striking distance. If they can get their inside-out game going, WVU could shock the nation.
|West Virginia Stats|
|Emmitt Matthews Jr.||15||10.1||2.3||1.8||0.5||0.2||0.3||0.3||.323||.714||.000|