Iowa St.-West Virginia Preview
After consecutive losses put a dent in West Virginia's Big 12 title hopes, coach Bob Huggins is focused on getting the Mountaineers healthy enough for a late-season push.
Poor shooting and rebounding led to their demise over the weekend, but that certainly wasn't the case earlier this month when they dealt No. 17 Iowa State only its sixth loss in 75 home games.
With Daxter Miles Jr. day to day and Jaysean Paige hurting, No. 14 West Virginia hopes to replicate that performance and sweep the regular-season series from the visiting Cyclones on Monday night.
The Mountaineers (20-7, 9-5) were in the thick of the conference chase after knocking off then-No. 13 Iowa State and No. 15 Baylor in back-to-back games. However, the dream of the program's first regular-season league title since winning the Atlantic 10 in 1988-89 has faded during a 1-3 stretch.
It won't help if Miles, the team's third-leading scorer at 10.1 points per game, is sidelined again after missing Tuesday's 85-78 loss at then-No. 24 Texas and Saturday's 76-62 home loss to No. 3 Oklahoma due to a strained hamstring.
Paige, averaging a team-high 13.4 points, also missed most of the Texas game because of an ankle injury before scoring 13 on 4-of-16 shooting against the Sooners.
West Virginia, looking to avoid its first three-game skid since Feb. 15-26, 2014, has fallen into a second-place tie with Oklahoma and Baylor – two games back of Kansas.
“You don't have your full compliment of guys so you can't do what you set out to do to start the year,” Huggins told the team's official website. “This guy goes down, that guy goes down and all of a sudden you look at what was a strength has become a weakness, particularly the way we have to play.”
Though they lead the conference with a plus-8.6 rebounding margin and are fifth with a 45.0 field-goal percentage, the Mountaineers shot 33.3 percent and were outrebounded 48-37 on Saturday.
They're hoping Paige is strong enough to match his effort in Ames on Feb. 2 when he finished with 23 points in an 81-76 win over the Cyclones. Devin Williams scored 17 with 18 rebounds as West Virginia shot 48.4 percent and owned a 43-26 advantage on the glass.
Iowa State (19-8, 8-6) moved past a 2-4 stretch with Saturday's 92-83 home win over TCU. Georges Niang scored 27 points, Abdel Nader added 24 and Deonte Burton had 23 with 14 rebounds.
Still, the Cyclones were outrebounded 43-31 by TCU, which sits last in the Big 12 in rebounding margin.
Niang ranks second in the league with 19.7 points per game for an Iowa State team that leads the conference with an average of 83 and a 50.4 field-goal percentage.
Burton has scored 16.8 in his past four, while Nader has totaled 50 while hitting 10 of 17 from beyond the arc in his last two.
“He turned into Steph Curry overnight,” Niang joked about Nader.
Niang has averaged 17.8 points and gone 7 of 16 from 3-point range over his last four matchups with West Virginia. Nader has put up 18 per game on 55.9 percent shooting in three career meetings.
Iowa State, seeking its fifth straight 20-win season, hasn't been as prolific on the road. It's averaging 78.1 points while going 4-5 away from home compared to 86.2 in winning 12 of 14 at Hilton Coliseum.
West Virginia leads the conference in scoring defense (66.0) and turnover margin (plus-4.3).