The Mountaineers are coming off a very close loss to 4th ranked Syracuse, while the Panthers won their second Big East game against 10th ranked Georgetown. Both teams will be coming into this game with momentum.
West Virginia will be looking to take out their frustration on Pittsburgh after losing 63-61 to Syracuse yesterday. Luckily for them, the game tomorrow will be played in Morgantown so the Mountaineers will have the crowd behind them. Even though home court advantage doesn’t mean anything the Mountaineers don’t want to let their fans down at home. Last year the Mountaineers lost both their games against the Panthers, but this is a whole new year. Both teams have lost significant players and out of the two the Mountaineers seem to have the upper hand.
Pittsburgh has been struggling in the Big East and they just won their second conference game yesterday. The Mountaineers are 5-4 in the Big East and have one of the best players in the conference. Kevin Jones has been on a tear all year averaging 20.9 points per game and 11.4 rebounds per game. Jones will not be able to do it alone and will need all the help he can get from his teammates. Truck Bryant will be the other factor for the Mountaineers in this game. Bryant has been averaging 17.4 ppg and only 2.8 rpg.
Against St. John's a few days ago the bench play was terrible as only one player scored points. Yesterday the bench played a little better with freshman guard Gary Browne leading the bench scoring with 11 points. Junior forward Dominique Rutledge recorded two points while freshman forward Aaron Brown dropped five points. While it may seem like these numbers are disappointing it is an improvement over zero points. The bench will need to play even harder Monday so the starters can rest easy.
One player the Mountaineers will have to guard aggressively on defense is senior guard Ashton Gibbs. Gibbs is averaging 16.5 ppg and 2.4 rpg which makes him the top player on Pittsburgh. He also only played in one of the two games these two teams played last year and Gibbs only had nine points. Senior forward Nasir Robinson will also be a player the Mountaineers have to look out for. Robinson is averaging 12.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg which means West Virginia will have to box out big time in order to stop him from grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds.
If the Mountaineers can catch fire early and get some support from their bench then they won't be the only thing on fire in Morgantown. The defense also has to do a good job of boxing out and putting hands in the faces of both Gibbs and Robinson.
Prediction: WVU-79 Pittsburgh-66
Player of the Game: Kevin Jones 23 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists
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