West Virginia Looking to Rebound Vs. Kentucky
MORGANTOWN — No. 7 West Virginia (16-4, 5-3 Big 12) and unranked Kentucky (15-5 5-3 SEC) have met 20 times on the hardwood.
At 7 p.m. tonight, the two border state schools will meet for a 21st time as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge on ESPN.
“Kentucky is Kentucky,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “They are a great team with a Hall of Fame coach on the sidelines.”
WVU is 1-3 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Mountaineers defeated Texas A&M in Morgantown last season, lost at Florida two years ago, fell to LSU at home three years ago and lost at Missouri four years ago.
The Wildcats lead the series that began in 1923-24 by a 15-5 margin. The last meeting took place on March 26, 2015, a 78-39 UK win in the 2015 NCAA Sweet 16 in Cleveland.
The Mountaineers’ last win in the series came in 2010 when they defeated the top-seeded Wildcats, 73-66, in the Elite Eight in Syracuse, New York, sending WVU to its first Final Four since 1959.
Saturday’s final game of the challenge features a pair of coaches that have faced one another many times both on and off the court. Huggins is 8-3 all-time against UK’s John Calipari, but only 1-2 since returning to take over his alma mater.
Calipari is 12-7 against WVU – 10-6 while the head coach at UMass.
Kentucky is coming off a 78-65 victory over Mississippi State on Tuesday while West Virginia is coming off one of its worst shooting performances of the year in an 82-73 loss at TCU.
Senior guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. combined to shoot 11 of 33 (33 percent) from the field and 1 of 14 from behind the arc as WVU remains in a tie for second place in the Big 12.
“I don’t know what we are,” Huggins said during Thursday’s Big 12 Teleconference. “Not very good right now. Shoot it more I guess. Everybody goes through it. They just need to get more shots up.”
In connection with earning bragging rights for the Big 12 in the challenge, the Mountaineers could gain a lot of points in the all-important RPI rankings which are utilized to pick the teams that will continue playing in the NCAA Tournament in March.
“They see it (RPI) every day,” he said. “All the RPI’s are adjusted every day. I sit down with the players at the beginning of the season and talk about it.”
Huggins will go with his normal lineup of Carter, who leads the team in scoring at 16.9 points per game, and Miles (13.1) at the guards with sophomores Lamont West (11.4), Wesley Harris (6.2) and Sagaba Konate (9.6) at the forwards.
Kentucky’s Calipari will counter with an all-freshman lineup of Hamidou Diallo (12.7) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (12.1) at the guards and Nick Richards (6.8), Kevin Knox (14.6) and PJ Washington (11.3) at the forwards.
Wheeling Central grad Chase Harler (2.3) and Cameron’s Logan Routt (1.3) will see action off the bench as will junior Esa Ahmad (10.3), sophomore James Bolden (9.4), and freshman Teddy Allen (8.5).
This will mark the final non-conference game of the season for both teams.
“I’d rather it not be in the conference season,” Huggins said. “But, ESPN wants it there. The question for them was ‘Do we play it when there are a bunch of bowl games or do we play it when everybody’s watching basketball?'”