West Virginia’s undefeated home streak on the line against high-powered Cyclone offense

WVU Men's Basketball

One might say the last meeting between West Virginia and Iowa State in Morgantown was somewhat of a watershed moment for this season’s team.

On the tail end of their dismal 2018-19 campaign, the Mountaineers were rounding out their regular season schedule at home against the Cyclones. At that point of the season, the hosts were all but ruled out for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. With just four wins in the Big 12 and none on the road, WVU was at the bottom of the league and simply looking to generate some momentum before heading to Kansas City for the conference tournament the following week.

Behind a 28-point performance from Jermaine Haley and the eighth career double-double from Derek Culver, Bob Huggins’s squad earned their twelfth win over ISU by their largest margin of victory in Big 12 play that year.

For Wednesday’s 7 p.m. tip-off at the WVU Coliseum, the roles are a tad reversed. While the Mountaineers (17-4, 5-3 Big 12) are performing at a level above that of last year’s Iowa State squad, the Cyclones (9-12, 2-6 Big 12) are similarly struggling like WVU a year ago. They are just two games above the bottom of the Big 12, and are yet to win a game on the road.

That may be were the similarities end, though. When looking at his upcoming opponent, Bob Huggins has one glaring observation.

“They can score,” he said ahead of the contest. “[Sophomore guard Tyrese] Haliburton is a first round pick, I really like [sophomore forward George] Conditt. They’re young inside, and they can make shots.”

He’s not kidding about their scoring ability. Led by Haliburton’s 15.7 points per game, the Cyclones are one of the top scoring teams in the conference, trailing only Kansas.

Haliburton is the centerpiece to this Cyclone team. While he does lead the team in scoring, he’s also on top of their rebounds, assists and steals columns — all while making half of his field goals and 41 percent from deep.

“He’s a 6-foot-6 guy with ball skills…[he] passes it really well, obviously can make shots,” Huggins said.

West Virginia’s defense is currently third in the Big 12 in scoring. ISU has already played three games against the top two defenses in the conference (two against Baylor and one against Kansas), and struggled mightily, averaging just 53.6 points in those games.

Having already seen success against some of the top offensive players in the league, Bob Huggins isn’t particularly worried about the Cyclone scoring machine.

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job,” he said. “I mean, we struggled with [Kansas guard Devon] Dotson, but everybody struggles with Dotson.”

Iowa State and West Virginia both run the fastest offenses in the Big 12, with both averaging more than 70 possessions per 40 minutes. Their offensive styles are in stark contrast, however. While Iowa State likes to shoot (which they’ve done the most in the league this year), West Virginia plays through their big men. Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe both lead the team with respective averages of 11.2 and 11.0 points per game.

Now sitting 3.5 games behind Baylor in the Big 12 standings with 10 games to go in the year, this contest will be crucial for the Mountaineers if they want to make a run at their first-ever Big 12 regular season title.

Where to watch

If you’re looking to head to the WVU Coliseum to see the game, there are still tickets available on WVUGame.com. If not, you can catch the game at home on ESPN2 and on the WatchESPN app.

WV Illustrated will also have live coverage on our site and on social media, so be sure to check WVIllustrated.com for insight and analysis on the game.

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