No. 14 West Virginia men’s basketball didn’t have a lot of time to wallow in their Saturday loss to Kansas State as they will be right back on the court just two days later to face Texas at home.
The Mountaineers (14-3, 3-2 Big 12) are clear favorites for the WVU Coliseum clash, who are facing one of the six unranked teams in the Big 12. Despite that, the Longhorns (12-5, 2-3 Big 12) are just a game behind West Virginia in the conference standings in a college basketball season full of upsets and without clear leaders.
Texas is coming off a loss of their own after falling to Kansas at home, 57-66, in which they were dominated on the boards, 40-29. They had no answer for the Jayhawks’ freshman duo of Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike, who combined for 38 points and 15 rebounds.
West Virginia’s matchup saw them struggle on the offensive end, as they gave up 18 turnovers in the matchup and allowed 26 points off those turnovers.
This is the 19th meeting between the two programs in an all-time series which favors the Longhorns, 11-7. Here are some of the matchups that will define the contest:
Leading from the back
This Longhorn team hasn’t been defined by the play of one singular player. Five different players have been any given game’s leading scorer, four of whom are guards. Their leading offensive contributor is Matt Coleman III, who has scored or assisted 34 percent of their buckets this season. He is helped by Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones, who both average double-digit scoring figures.
Jones is a Longhorn to keep an eye on, regardless of a fan’s allegiance. The redshirt sophomore has made his return to his team after a battle with Leukemia that lasted nearly a year and a half. He made his season debut in their opener and scored 20 points in the contest against Northern Colorado.
The inside battle
West Virginia has a clear advantage inside as the conference’s best rebounders. Their opponents are among the worst, averaging just 34.13 boards every trip.
Their ability to get the ball down low could make or break this game for the Mountaineers. The trio of Derek Culver, Oscar Tshiebwe and Gabe Osabuohien combined for 26 of their points on 71.4-percent shooting, while the rest of their team shot just 35 percent from the floor.
Their success is also hinged on their rebounding prowess and their ability to capitalize on extra opportunities. As the best team on the offensive glass in the Big 12, the Mountaineers generate plenty of second chances for themselves. Those opportunities come often — the Mountaineers grabbed 14 offensive boards on Saturday — but they only generated 9 second-chance points from those rebounds.
Defensively, the Mountaineers will have to keep an eye on forward Jericho Sims, the highest-scoring forward for Texas. He is the team’s fifth-leading scorer and shot-taker, but his 20-point performance at Kansas and team-high field goal percentage for the season of 67-percent show, he can be dangerous for foes.
How to watch
This matchup for the Mountaineers tips off at 7 p.m. on ESPNU, or you can stream it on the WatchESPN app. As usual, Jay Jacobs and Tony Caridi will have the call on the Mountaineer Sports Network from Learfield IMG College.
We will also have live coverage on social media and right here on WVIllustrated.com, so be sure to follow along so you don’t miss a moment!