CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Through its opening five victories, West Virginia is averaging fewer than 31 points in the paint. That figure should spike Wednesday night against the run-and-gun VMI Keydets, who surrendered 84 in the paint—Eighty-four!—to UNCW in Saturday’s loss.
That’s the price of playing fast, aggressive, and sometimes reckless. But VMI historically piles up plenty of points itself, leading the nation in scoring four of the past six seasons. So it promises to be a curious and exciting test when the Keydets (2-2) arrive at the Charleston Civic Center.
“They’re different. They’re really different,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.
And Huggins’ team looks different, at least in contrast to the past two years. Ranked No. 21 and back in the AP poll for the first time since March 2011, West Virginia is trying to maintain momentum after knocking off UConn in the final of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The Mountaineers’ full-court press is generating turnovers in bunches though Huggins insists it leaves too many vulnerable areas.
“We’ve just got to contain them a little bit,” he said. “They play fast on their own so if you can try and make it a little harder for them to get the ball inbounds it may slow them down a little bit.
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (West Virginia Media TV affiliates)
Scouting VMI: This was supposed to be a homecoming game for brothers Ot and Jon Elmore, the latter of whom was the West Virginia prep player of the year last season at George Washington High School. But the pair withdrew from VMI in late October, citing an illness of their grandfather. Jon was projected to start at point guard as a true freshman. … VMI fell 110-93 to UNCW and suffered its other loss 92-66 at Army. Its wins came agains The Citadel 66-65 along with a 124-42 thumping of D-III Johnson University. … Former Hedgesville guard QJ Peterson leads five double-digit scorers at 22.5 points per game.
Mountaineers to watch: The rotation is 10-deep but Huggins has stuck with the same starting five thus far. Juwan Staten (15.8 points, 4.2 assists), Daxter Miles (6.6 ppg 2.8 rpg) and Jaysean Paige (6.6 ppg) are the guards, with Devin Williams (13.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg) and Jonathan Holton (11.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg ) at the forwards.
Line: West Virginia -21
Prediction: West Virginia 93-71