WVU Up to No. 10, Seeking Sweep Tonight in Waco

West Virginia is up two positions in the latest Associated Press Poll, released Monday afternoon. WVU checks in at No. 10 with its next opponent, Baylor, just one spot back at No. 11.

The Mountaineers (23-6, 11-5) are winners are five of their last six games, but the Bears (23-6, 10-6) have been trending in the opposite direction. Baylor has had a February to forget, falling in five of the team’s eight games this month, including a 72-69 loss at Iowa State on Saturday.

“We’ve got to come out and play hard,” WVU senior forward Nathan Adrian said of Monday’s game. “They’re an extremely good team and they’re not going to give us a game, so they need a win just as bad as we do.”

Adrian and the Mountaineers welcomed Baylor to Morgantown more than a month ago and handed Scott Drew’s team its first loss of the season. The Bears, then the No. 1 team in the country, gave the ball away 29 times on the way to losing by 21 points.

Those 29 turnovers were 13 more than Baylor has committed all season, but the Bears possess the league’s worst turnover margin at minus-4.2 per game, so the Mountaineers will certainly be looking to capitalize on their strength against an opponent’s weakness.

“Is there a tougher team to play on a one-day prep?” Coach Drew asked during his Sunday press conference. “The good thing is you know what they’re going to do. We’ve played them once, so hopefully we have a better feel for that.”

Starting point guard Manu Lecomte, who committed five of those turnovers in January, is looking doubtful to play Monday night as he suffered a sprained ankle recently that kept him from scoring in Saturday’s loss to the Cyclones.

West Virginia will again be without starting forward Esa Ahmad, who did not travel to Texas as he deals with a back injury. In his place, the Mountaineers have started three guards – Jevon Carter, Tarik Phillip and Daxter Miles Jr. – and gotten increased minutes from redshirt freshman forward Lamont West and true freshman Maciej Bender.

Huggins said after Saturday’s 61-60 win over TCU that his team is undefeated this in games in which an injury has kept a player from suiting up.

“I gotta find a way to get somebody hurt in practice after the Baylor game,” the head coach joked.

A team that has prided itself on depth all season long continues to test its strength in that department so long as Ahmad remains sidelined.

“That’s just what we do. Every time someone goes down, that just gives someone else an opportunity to come in and show what we can do,” WVU junior guard Jevon Carter said. “That’s what we’re about. That’s why we play 12, 13 guys a night.”

The Mountaineers are currently tied with Iowa State for second place in the Big 12 with a game against the Cyclones scheduled for Friday night at the WVU Coliseum. Many NCAA Tournament projections show West Virginia as a four-seed, which is a position they hope to see improve this week and in Kansas City.

“We’d like to hang banners,” Huggins said. “We fell a little short trying to hang our regular season banner, but there isn’t any reason we can’t hang a conference tournament championship banner and there isn’t any reason we can’t go to the NCAA Tournament and not just go, but play the second and hopefully the third weekend.”

Tipoff tonight is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU.


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