On Saturday, the WVU Mountaineers defeated the Youngstown State Penguins 75-64. This was the Mountaineers’ tenth win giving them an impressive 10-1 record heading into Christmas. Going into the matchup, the Mountaineers were averaging 75.8 points per game and only allowing 62.1 points from opponents.
Hot Start for WVU
Dismantling Youngstown State In Second Half
WVU started slow against Youngstown State with a 35-38 first half score. The second half was a different story as Tshiebwe led the effort with 14 second half points and they pulled out the win 75-64. With 7:38 left in the second half, WVU led 58-56. The Mountaineers finished on a strong 17-8 run in the midst of fiery exchanges. The team had an efficient day shooting almost 50% from the field at 30-64.
After Jermaine Haley did not see the floor in the last match up due to “coach’s decision,” he returned with a ten point outing on 4-7 shooting. Adding to the offensive effort, Culver shot 7-10 and Tshiebwe was 8-12, scoring exactly the teams season average. A double technical foul on Michael Akuchie and Derek Culver with under two minutes left was the boiling over of a competitive match up in Culver’s hometown. The Mountaineers’ tenth win in just eleven games is a huge improvement from last season when it took the team twenty-two games.
Week Before Youngstown State
The Mountaineers were riding a wave of positive publicity as the team earned their first top twenty-five ranking of the season. Additionally, Oscar Tshiebwe was named the top breakout freshman in college basketball by Andy Katz. Also WVU Head Coach Bob Huggins was selected as a candidate for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Not even mentioning his impact on defense, Tshiebwe is deserving of the recognition as he is averaging a double-double with points and rebounds. Coach Huggins is among the winningest coaches of all time and certainly deserves a spot in the hall of fame. All of these achievements led up to a solid victory over Youngstown State on Saturday.
In Depth Look at Season for WVU
Tshiebwe and Culver, both averaging a double-double in the front court, paired with excellent guard play, is a recipe for success this season. Last year, the Mountaineers struggled with consistent scoring . However, this season has produced four guys averaging double digits in points and three averaging 40% or higher from the three point line. The Mountaineers, as a unit, are ranked third in second chance opportunities in the entire country, giving them ample opportunity to score the ball.
Defensively, the Mountaineers have performed well as opponents have only scored on 36.2% of field goals attempted and 24.0% of three point shots attempted. This ranks the Mountaineers among the top ten in the country in both categories. WVU is also doing a better job at taking care of the ball this year with an average of 14.4 turnovers a game. In WVU’s only loss, they turned the ball over a staggering twenty-two times. All in all, if the Mountaineers continue to play solid defense, keep a balanced scoring approach, and limit the amount of turnovers, they will be competitive against any team they face.
Schedule After Christmas
While the Mountaineers have mounted a strong start to the season, they will face a test of tough opponents after their break for Christmas. Among the first four games coming out of break, WVU will face three top twenty-five ranked opponents, two of them being in the top five. Though the match up with #24 Texas Tech on January 11 will be played in Morgantown. The Mountaineers will have to play #5 Ohio State and #1 Kansas away from the Coliseum. This will provide a measuring stick for just how good WVU will be this year. They certainly have the pieces to finish among the best in the Big 12 and to make a serious push come time for March Madness.
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