The West Virginia University Men’s basketball team will return to action this evening when they take on Texas at the Frank Erwin Special Events Center in Austin, TX. To get you set for all the action, here is quick a preview of tonight’s match-up:
Trends and Streaks:
West Virginia will enter tonight’s game fresh off a resounding 86-65 victory over 18th ranked Oklahoma Tuesday night. The Mountaineers are 8-2 in their last ten contests, and have won eight of their last nine games.
Texas, on the other hand, are in the midst of a two-game losing streak after falling to 24th ranked Oklahoma State 69-58 last Saturday in Stillwater, OK. The Longhorns are currently 8-2 in their last ten games.
Tonight’s game will be the ninth all-time meeting between the two schools in Men’s basketball. Texas currently holds a 5-3 advantage in the all-time series. The two teams last met on March 13th, 2014 in the quarterfinals of last season’s Big XII Men’s basketball tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. That evening, the Mountaineers failed to rally from an ugly start to the contest, which saw the team fall behind a game Longhorns squad 21-4 within the first ten minutes of the ball game. Texas would go on to win the game 66-49 as they erased all hopes of the Mountaineers earning a bid to last year’s “Big Dance”.
Rankings and Ratings:
West Virginia is currently ranked No. 16 in the weekly Associated Press top 25 poll, and No. 15 in the USA Today Coach’s poll respectively. This is the eighth consecutive week the Mountaineers find themselves inside the top 25. The Mountaineers drop two positions in the newest AP poll, while they fall just one spot in this week’s Coach’s poll. They also currently have a ranking of No. 14 in the updated RPI standings.
Texas is currently ranked No. 20 in both polls. The Longhorns have been ranked in each and every weekly top 25 poll this year since the start of the season. Last week, the Longhorns were ranked No. 10 before suffering back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Texas is also currently No. 33 in the updated RPI rankings.
Junior guard Juwan Staten continues to pace the Mountaineers in scoring with an average of 15.8 points per game. Staten also leads the team in assists with 68. Sophomore forward Devin Williams is the team’s leading rebounder with 134 total so far this season.
Newcomers Jonathan Holton, Jaysean Paige, Tarik Phillip, and Jevon Carter all currently pace the squad in several other notable statistical categories including field goal percentage (Phillip- 52.3%), foul shooting (Carter- 79.2%), three-point field goal percentage (Paige- 46.5%), blocks (Holton- 19), and steals (Carter- 38).
For the Longhorns, freshman forward Myles Turner currently leads the team in scoring with an average of 11.6 points per game. The native of Bedford, TX also leads the team in field goal percentage (48.8%), foul shooting (86.7%), rebounding (109 total), and blocked shots (45).
Juniors Isaiah Taylor and Demarcus Holland lead the team in steals and assists with 10 and 38 respectively. Holland is also the team’s best three-point shooter this season as he currently hits 47.6% of his shots from behind the arc.
Who to watch:
Devin Williams will be the guy to watch on WVU’s side of things this evening as he’ll have to contest with one of the larger teams the Mountaineers have had to face all season. Williams is coming off an outstanding performance in Tuesday night’s win when he recorded 11 points and 14 rebounds. While Williams was rather quiet in each of WVU’s three meetings with the Longhorns last season, his ability to hold his own against the likes of 6’11” Myles Turner inside the paint will prove to be critical as the game wears on.
Texas-born Myles Turner will be the guy to keep your eye on in burnt orange this evening. Turner is coming off an 18 point performance against Oklahoma State last Saturday. While Turner has not consistently reached the double-digit mark in points scored each night throughout the course of the current season, he has been able to make up for it under the rim as he typically averages five to seven rebounds a contest. However, Turner does have two double-doubles to his credit on the year. If he should get hot, he could cause some major problems for the Mountaineer back-court.
Key to the game:
It will be highly critical that the Mountaineers control the tempo of the game early in order to have the chance to pull-ahead later in the ball-game. In the last two meetings with the Longhorns, the Mountaineers allowed Texas to go on lengthy runs of 17-2 and 21-4 early in the first half of each game. While this year’s Mountaineer team has ultimately taken on a much tougher personality than that of the last two seasons, they still can’t afford to open tonight’s game with a lack luster shooting performance during the first five to ten minutes of tonight’s contest.
Tip-off for tonight’s game is scheduled for 6:15PM. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.