After struggling mightily on the road during conference play last season, the West Virginia men’s basketball team understands the importance of winning on its home court.
“You can’t win this league without winning all your home games,” sophomore point guard Miles ‘Deuce’ McBride said Thursday.
The No. 8 Mountaineers (5-1) will open their conference schedule in the friendly confines of the WVU Coliseum Friday night against a struggling Iowa State team (1-3, 0-1). Starting the conference slate at home is a bonus for WVU, a team that travels as much as anyone in the country during conference play.
“It’s a hard league and it makes it a lot harder for us because of where we’re located compared to where they’re located,” coach Bob Huggins said. “We’re not a two-hour bus ride from anywhere, we’re the road dogs. I think it’s even more important for us to be able to win at home than it is those other people because they don’t have to go through what we have to go through.”
The Mountaineers went 2-7 in conference play last season, a black mark on what was otherwise a successful bounce-back campaign. One of those road Big 12 wins came against the Cyclones in Ames, Iowa. Compared to last season, however, the Cyclones are a very different looking team.
Iowa State lost its best player from last season, Tyrese Haliburton, to the NBA draft, but brought in a pair of new starting guards in Memphis transfer Tyler Harris and DePaul transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands. Harris and Coleman-Lands joined the starting lineup with returners Rasir Bolton, Solomon Young and Javan Johnson.
“I think this is a great start for us. Iowa State is a good team, they’ve got a couple new guys and we know that we’ve got to take advantage of that,” McBride said. “They’re going to be new and this is going to be their second Big 12 game so we’ve got to take advantage of them being a little bit tired from their game on Tuesday.”
Bolton leads the team in scoring, averaging 15.8 points, but Coleman-Lands (13.5), Johnson (11.3) and Young (10) all also average double-digit points. Rebounding has been a sore spot for the Cyclones with a rebounding margin of -6.5 through four games. Bolton also leads the team in rebounding, although he averaged just 5.3 per game.
Struggling or not, Huggins said he will make sure the Mountaineers are ready to play the Cyclones on Friday. Noting that a home team has yet to win in Big 12 play yet this season.
“We’re going to reinforce with our guys today that the road teams in our league are 3-0, we haven’t had a road team lose yet,” Huggins said. “I think that means the home team better be ready to play so we’re going to emphasize to our guys that they better be ready to play.”
WVU and ISU will tip-off a 9 p.m. Friday from the WVU Coliseum. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
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