Preview: WVU – Missouri
SCOUTING THE TIGERS
Missouri is 5-1 on the year, with a win over WVU opponent Long Beach State and future Big 12 foe Iowa State. The Tigers dropped a 77-59 decision to Utah, but perhaps their bigger loss was to injury. True freshman Michael Porter, one of the Tigers’ highest profile recruits in years, was diagnosed with a back injury after playing just two minutes in the opener. He has undergone surgery, but is out for the year.
First year coach Cuonzo Martin and his team have responded well, three veterans showing the way. Guard Kassius Robertson (6-3, 180 lbs.) leads the team with 13.7 points per game, while forward Kevin Puryear (6-7, 240 lbs.) and Jordan Barnett (6-7, 215 lbs.) are also averaging double figures with 12.7 and 10.2 points per game respectively. Behind that tri0, backups Jontay Porter (6-11, 240 lbs.) is the team’s best inside threat, providing height and bulk while tallying 10.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. (Porter is also Michael’s brother.)
Freshmen Jeremiah Tillman (6-10, 25o lbs.) and Blake Harris (6-3, 195 lbs.) fill out the starting lineup, but both average just around 15 minutes per game, and yield minutes to a bench that has five players getting more than ten minutes of action per contest.
Missouri has put most opponents at a disadvantage with excellent shooting, as they are making 48.5% as a team. Rebounding is something of a team effort, with six players averaging between 6.5 and four per game, and they hold a plus-11 advantage there despite fewer chances on the offensive end due to their good shooting overall. The Tigers do have 92 turnovers — seven more than their opposition — which will be a focal point for WVU’s press.
West Virginia gets its second chance of the young season to score a high-RPI win as it goes for the championship of the AdvoCare Invitational on Sunday evening. Both teams are still sorting through adjustments after losing players expected to be major parts of their teams, so this game might go to the squad that can put more stable rotations on the floor, especially as they substitute and get deeper into their benches.
|WVU (4-1) vs. UM (5-1)||Sun Nov 26||9:30 PM EST|
|HP Field House||Lake Buena Vista, FL||Series: UM 2-1|
|RPI: WVU – 33 UM – 4||TV: ESPN2||Sirius/XM: 81 / 81|
For West Virginia, that means finding ways to use three guards for appreciable stretches of the game. That helps the Mountaineers’ outside shooting and perimeter game, but it can hurt in other areas. Against both Marist and UCF, WVU had a couple of issues against pressure, as it still doesn’t have a big player it trusts to put in the middle of the floor as a target for its pressbreaker. The Mountaineers placed guards there, and they didn’t provide the height or visibility that a forward would, which made getting the ball upcourt a bit more difficult. This is one of the many things WVU’s young frontcourt must learn and execute, but for now West Virginia might expect to see more fullcourt pressure than it has in past seasons.
The three-guard look will be under serious pressure against Mizzou on the boards. The Tigers still have six players standing 6-7 or taller, even with Porter on the bench. Sagaba Konate will need help from Logan Routt or Maciej Bender inside, and forwards Wesley Harris and Lamont West will have to be strong on the boards to overcome the Mountaineers’ height disadvantage. Again, WVU will likely try to speed the game, but hey have to get better transitioning out of the press, or numerous Tiger lobs and dunks will result.
This is going to be a difficult test for WVU, and in some ways it mirrors the Texas A&M game. The Mountaineers have to push their backcourt advantages to the maximum while trying to fend off Mizzou’s height and strength inside. WVU can’t simply watch and depend on Sagaba Konate to do all of that work. They hope to take a page out of the Tigers’ book, and get contributions up and down the lineup.
In sum, it’s another growing process and measuring stick game. Has WVU made enough improvements to match up to the Tigers? It’s difficult to expect that much in just a couple of weeks, but that will be the story of the year as the schedule continues to ramp up in difficulty.
Earlier this year, WVU head coach Bob Huggins noted that the Mountaineers were taking far too many 3-pointers. That pace hasn’t lessened, even though Huggins would like to get the ball closer to the hoop.
WVU has attempted 425 shots this year, with 174 of them coming from distance. Sixty-three of them have come against Marist and UCF, and even though accuracy was better against the Knights, the Mountaineers are making just 32.2% of them through six games.
Four of WVU’s top five scorers are outside-oriented, with Sagaba Konate the only outlier. Of West Virginia’s 268 points from the field, 168 have come from beyond the arc.
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Robertson has proven to be a huge addition for the Tigers after completing his undergraduate degree at Canisius. While some players struggle to adapt to the faster pace of high-major competition, he has provided more than 31 minutes of playing time, while playing solidly across the board.
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WVU is 1-2 all-time against Missouri, and the first game in the series provided a memorable moment. In the March 19, 1992 match-up with the Tigers in the NCAA Tournament, the lights went out in the Greensboro Colisuem, causing a delay while the problem was corrected. The Mountaineers didn’t take to the disruption well, as Mizzou rallied from the deficit they were in at the time to advance with an 89-78 win.
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Missouri assistant coach Michael Porter, Sr., has eight children. Four of them, (brothers Jontay and Michael Jr., along with sisters Bri and Cierra) play for the Mizzouo men’s and women’s hoops teams, respectively.