Manhattan-West Virginia Preview
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- No. 25 West Virginia left the championship game of the NIT Season Tipoff with a loss and multiple teaching points.
"We didn't guard," coach Bob Huggins said after Friday's 81-77 loss to Temple in Brooklyn. "We didn't guard the way we're capable of guarding. Our help defense was atrocious. We fouled too much. We didn't make free throws. We missed open shots. We missed 17 layups -- 17 point-blank at the rim."
The Mountaineers (4-1) trailed 45-25 at the half, reclaimed the lead with eight minutes left and then failed to finish a game in which they were heavily favored.
On Monday night, when Huggins' team returns to action against Manhattan (2-3), he's hoping for more consistent defense -- not just the suffocating spurt WVU showed during the second half against Temple. He's also bothered by 60 percent foul shooting and the Mountaineers penchant for committing too many turnovers themselves. They forced 19 by Temple only to give back 16.
"That's a formula for disaster," Huggins said.
If there was a positive from the defeat, sophomore forward Esa Ahmad scored a career-high 19 points, becoming the offensive force many fans envisioned.
Nathan Adrian (13.2 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Ahmad (12 points, 5.4 rebounds) give West Virginia versatile forwards. Jevon Carter (9.6 points, 4 assists, 3.6 steals) and Tarik Phillip (9.6 points, 3.6 rebounds) lead a rotation of five guards that figures only to grow stronger with Daxter Miles (5.5 points) regaining his conditioning after a three-game illness absence.
The Jaspers, picked fourth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, also have lost to Temple, 88-67, on Nov 20. They edged Detroit 84-81 in double-overtime on Saturday behind 32 points by guard Zavier Turner. The 5-foot-9 Ball State transfer averages 19.4 points and three assists per game.
Forward Zane Waterman (11.4 points, 7.4 rebounds) and freshman guard Aaron Walker (10.2 points, 4.0 rebounds) could be key if Manhattan is to stop West Virginia's trend of blowing out mid-majors in Morgantown. The Mountaineers have won three home games by an average of 40 points.