New Hampshire-West Virginia Preview
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — During the course of two blowout victories, No. 19 West Virginia emptied its bench and coasted through sloppy stretches.
Only two members of the Mountaineers (2-0) played 20 minutes in each game as coach Bob Huggins experimented with various groupings, paying particular interest to the progress of six freshmen. He used all 14 available players in Monday's 107-66 romp against Mississippi Valley State, with only guard Daxter Miles sitting out with an extended illness.
“When you play that many guys it's hard to be sharp,” Huggins said. “We're going to have to limit the rotation, but at least those two games were a good chance to see what players can do — or not do.”
After starting 65 games the previous two seasons, Miles is not expected back for Sunday afternoon's game against New Hampshire (2-1), a mid-major program coming off an erratic week. The Wildcats stunned Temple 57-52, only to come crashing down Thursday during a 65-57 home loss to Abilene Christian.
“There's a right way to lose and there's a wrong way to lose, and we lost the wrong way,” said UNH coach Bill Herrion.
“I saw it right from the beginning. We had a couple of opportunities early to attack the rim and make layups, and we were just flipping the ball nonchalantly and not going up strong.”
Guard Jaleen Smith (18 points, 9.7 rebounds) ignited New Hampshire's second-half rally against Abilene Christian, and complements the inside-out skills of forward Tanner Leissner (14.3 points,10 rebounds).
West Virginia, with its full-court press turning many possessions into scrambles, generates points from a number of angles, including forward Nathan Adrian (14 points, 8. 5 rebounds) and guard Jevon Carter (10 points, five assists). Six other players are averaging 8.5 points or more so far, though Huggins hasn't been pleased with the defensive intensity.
A 64-28 halftime lead on Mississippi Valley State gave way to lethargic moments over the final 20 minutes, leaving Huggins to grouse.
“I'd like for us to play 40 minutes,” he said. “What the good teams here have learned is that when you get somebody on the mat you try to keep them there. You don't let them up and say 'Let's try this again.' This team hasn't learned that.”
Sunday's matchup opens the NIT Tipoff, an event that will take West Virginia to Brooklyn during Thanksgiving weekend for games against Illinois and then Florida State or Temple.
Huggins cautioned his team not to overlook UNH, which is building off the program's first 20-win season.
“New Hampshire's good,” he said. “They're not Illinois, obviously, and they're not Florida State, they're not Virginia — but they're pretty good.
“We kinda didn't get ready for 2-3 zone a couple years ago and almost lost to Monmouth.”