MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Welcome back to the WVU Coliseum for the second game of a quick-turnaround two-game home stand. The Mountaineers (8-1) will host the Colonels of Nicholls State (6-4), which already owns a 75-70 upset win over Pitt this season.
In that upset win, Nicholls State hit 11 3-pointers and D’Angelo Hunter scored 17 points. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Hunter was once a reserve guard on the 2017-18 WVU team that went to the Sweet 16. He transferred to Nicholls after that season and sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. He is now a senior.
Another storyline here is Bob Huggins’ unusual way of getting a point across to his players. Before Thursday’s 84-53 win against Austin Peay, Huggins had his players practice using basketballs that had just enough air in them to hold the form of the ball. The point? To keep his players from wasting time dribbling the ball and to pass it more instead. The result? WVU had a season-high 21 assists against the Governors, with eight of them coming from post players Gabe Osabuohien and Derek Culver.
Much to discuss here today, but for now, here’s what you need to know:
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Comcast 37, 843 HD; DirecTV 659; DISH 428) for the 2 p.m. game. As a side note here, this is West Virginia’s final game — maybe ever — on AT&T SportsNet. Beginning next season, the Mountaineers’ third-tier TV rights will belong to ESPN+, which is where you will find the majority of next season’s non-conference games. BETTING LINE: West Virginia is a 19 1/2-point favorite.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
F-Oscar Tshiebwe 6-9, 258, Fr. 12.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg. F-Derek Culver 6-10, 255, Soph. 10.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg. F-Emmitt Matthews Jr. 6-7, 210 Soph. 10.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg. G-Jordan McCabe 6-0, 188, Soph. 3.2 ppg, 2.6 apg. G-Jermaine Haley, 6-7, 215, 11.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg.
F- Warith Alatishe 6-7,200, Soph. 9.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg. G- Dexter McClanahan 6-4, 185, Sr., 17.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg G-Lorenzo McGhee 6-5, 200, Soph. 9.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg. G-Andre Jones 6-4, 200, Jr. 13.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg. G-Kevin Johnson 6-0, 160, Jr. 7.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg.
WHAT’S ON BOB HUGGINS’ MIND?
THREE GOOD QUESTIONS
ARE THE PIECES REALLY COMING TOGETHER? It started to look that way against Austin Peay, but let’s not kid ourselves and think the Colonels are one of the better teams on the schedule. Still, the Mountaineers shot better than 50 percent and no player took more than nine shots.
That’s a pretty even distribution, but Huggins wants to see Culver and Tshiebwe get more touches in the post. Good things happened when Culver caught the ball just off the block, as he looked to pass more than shoot. Tshiebwe got hot in the second half and I believe we’re beginning to see the early stages of him and Culver finding the right amount of spacing for each other. We still have questions at point guard and Matthews recorded his first double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds. It would be great if he continued to produce similar numbers consistently.
IS GABE OSABUOHIEN GOING TO BE FUN TO WATCH? The 6-7 forward said he loves to be the most unselfish player on the team. He had five assists against Austin Peay, but was upset that he didn’t draw an offensive fouls.
In short, Osabuohien is a throwback hustle player, which is fun to watch. He’ll likely never be a big scorer, but he’ll be the one throwing his body around. He’s a good defender, which this team needs. He showed he can pass the ball, which this team also needs. The prediction here is by February, Osabuohien will be a much bigger component to this program.
ARE THE REFS GOING TO GIVE CULVER A BREAK? Culver leads WVU with 45 free-throw attempts. In reality, it should be closer to 60 or more. That’s not a knock on Culver. That’s a knock on referees who are allowing smaller defenders to over compensate for their lack of size against Culver by grabbing and pulling on him. Rule changes this year were meant to clean that kind of stuff up, but it hasn’t exactly happened yet.
Human nature is to give the smaller guy a bit of a break, so it’s hard to simply put all of the blame on the refs, but that also keeps Culver from playing without much consistency. Huggins did not like how St. John’s defenders were allowed to gang up on Culver and then Culver gets charged with the foul at the end of the game when the St. John’s guard basically fell to the ground while driving to the rim.
It’s got to go both ways. So far, it has not.
The thought here is WVU played less than 48 hours ago, so 19 1/2 points may be too much. There also might be a bit of a letdown after a blowout win over Austin Peay. WVU will win, but will not cover, 77-59.
JUSTIN’S SEASON PREDICTIONS AGAINST THE SPREAD: 3-5.