WVU Looks to End a Two-Game Skid
Big, physical Texas is coming to town
MORGANTOWN — Coming off back-to-back losses to Top-10 ranked Texas Tech (72-71) and Kansas (71-66), No. 6 West Virginia (15-3 overall, 4-2 Big 12) gets a break when unranked Texas comes to the Coliseum for a 2 p.m. tipoff today.
Or some would think.
One of those who doesn’t believe the Mountaineers will see a drop-off in talent is veteran WVU coach Bob Huggins.
The Longhorns (12-6, 3-3 Big 12) come into Morgantown as the No. 2 defensive team in the league, averaging giving up 65.4 points per game. and they have one of the more dynamic players in freshman big man Mohamed Bamba.
Bamba comes to town averaging a league-leading 10.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots.
“There have been games where he has lost his mind, like freshmen do,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “You just have to keep coaching them.”
It will also be the first meeting between the Longhorns’ defensive key and the Mountaineers’ ‘Sultan of Swat’ Sagaba Konate, who ranks No. 2 behind Bamba with 3.1 blocks per game.
“Well, Konate, I saw him on TV the other day and he was blocking shots like I’ve seen nobody else do,” Smart said. “It will be a nice matchup between two of the better shot blockers in the whole country. West Virginia brings that physically that if you don’t match up with it, it can be a very, very long game.”
Texas is coming off an impressive 67-58 win over Texas Tech in a game that witnessed Mohamed post a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds while blocking five shots and coming away with a pair of steals.
Kerwin Roach II led the Longhorns with 20 points while Dylan Osetkowski chipped in with 12.
They will face a Mountaineers team still smarting from its first two Big 12 losses and searching for consistent play on both offense and defense.
Senior Jevon Carter continues to lead WVU in scoring (16.7 ppg), assists (114), steals (62), free-throw shooting (84.3 percent) and minutes played (622).
“Obviously, Jevon Carter is a phenomenal player,” Smart said. “One of the better players in our league. Having Ahmad back is a matchup problem for our guys.”
Ahmad, who missed the first 16 games under an NCAA suspension, has become a go-to player for the Mountaineers, averaging 16.5 points in the two contests he has seen action in.
If Huggins elects to put Ahmad in the starting lineup, he will join sophomores Lamont West (11.9) and Konate (9.3) at the forwards with Carter and senior Daxter Miles Jr. (13.2) at the guards. However, sophomore Wesley Harris (6.1) could be called upon to start his 19 games.
“They (Kansas) did a really good job (defensively) and we just got stagnant,” Huggins said following the loss to the Jayhawks. “We just had too many players trying to make plays on their own.”
Conversely, Texas will go with a lineup which includes Bamba (11.9 ppg), junior Dylan Osetkowski (14.9) and freshman Matt Coleman (8.8) in the inside with sophomore Andrew Jones (13.5) and Roach (10.8) at the guards.
“I don’t know if that’s (Bamba and Konate) a matchup,” Huggins said. “Two really different kinds of players. They both block shots, but they are different. It’s really us against them.
“I think they are really good. Their starting lineup is probably the biggest in college basketball. They are really hard to score against at the rim. And, their guards are getting better and better.”