West Virginia men’s basketball is hoping to rebound at home against Austin Peay after taking their first loss of the season at St. John’s. Action at the WVU Coliseum tips off at 7 p.m.
Saturday’s loss was a tough one for West Virginia, who struggled with shooting and ball security throughout the game.
“They were hurt, I think,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “They’ve been really good in practice….They want to be good, and they want to represent this university in the form and fashion that they ought to be represented.”
The Mountaineers (7-1) will face the Governors (4-4) for the first time in either program’s history. Bob Huggins, on the other hand, will be facing them for the 11th time — going back to his days at Akron and Cincinnati, the head coach has an 8-2 record all-time against Austin Peay.
Huggins also has a connection to the Governors’ head coach, Matt Figger. Between 2007 and 2012, Figger sat on Kansas State’s bench as an assistant to Frank Martin, who himself an assistant for Huggins for the Wildcats until 2007.
“Well Fig’s a good coach,” Huggins said. “I mean, he’s spent a lot of time with Frank, and they play defensively the way Frank’s teams play.”
The .500 Governors are looking to stay on the winning track after grinding out a home victory over North Florida. Guard Terry Taylor’s 20 points led Austin Peay, but ultimately it was their ability to create and capitalize on turnovers that would make the difference.
“He’s a great player,” said Sean McNeil, who played with and against Taylor before coming to West Virginia. “So they kind of ride him, get the ball to him and let him create. But they have a lot of players, too, to go alongside him.”
Taylor paces the team with a 22.5 point-per-game average, but Huggins also had praise for another guard: freshman Jordyn Adams, who has immediately come in and made an impact for the Governors.
“They’ve got a freshman guard who’s very good,” he said. “[He] creates off the bounce, he can catch and shoot, he can bounce it.”
Inside, the Mountaineers have a noticeable size advantage. Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe combine for a listed 3-inch, 78-pound edge over the probable starting frontcourt of Pavle Djurisic and Eli Avaev.
This is visible in each team’s respective rebounding numbers, where West Virginia grabs 42.3 rebounds every trip to Austin Peay’s 35.9.
Those 42.3 rebounds have been crucial for West Virginia throughout their season, as it has kept the Mountaineers in games even when their offense can’t seem to go. Still, Huggins wants to see his team to get points on the board moving forward.
“We’ve made a conscious effort to go out and recruit guys that we thought could make shots, and made shots where they were, and I think they will make shots, but they haven’t made shots yet,” he said. “I mean, we’ve won games because we rebounded the ball really well, and we’re getting better defending.”
Here are some other quick notes on tonight’s matchup:
- Huggins is closing in on win no. 150 at the WVU Coliseum. While he’s been at the helm, West Virginia is 148-42 at home. With a pair of wins, the Mountaineers might hit that mark before they hit the road again next weekend.
- West Virginia is currently one of the top defensive teams in the Big 12, holding teams to 36.4 percent from the floor and 26.7 percent from deep.
- Likewise, Culver and Tshiebwe are the conference’s top rebounders, averaging a respective 9.4 and 9.3 boards per game.
- The last time West Virginia started 7-1 was in the 2015-16 season. After coincidentally taking their first loss at Madison Square Garden, the Mountaineers went on to win 8 straight — including an upset over No. 1 Kansas.
It all tips off at the WVU Coliseum at 7 p.m. The contest will be broadcast on your local Nexstar station in West Virginia, which includes:
- WBOY-ABC (Clarksburg)
- WOWK (Charleston)
- WVNS (Beckley)
- WTRF My Ohio Valley (Wheeling)
You can also stream the game on WVUSports.com.