Preview: WVU – Morgan State

Preview: WVU – Morgan State


Teaching is the priority during early season non-conference games against lower-profile out of conference foes, so assimilation of lessons is high on the list of goals as West Virginia hosts Morgan State on Saturday evening at the WVU Coliseum.

SCOUTING THE BEARS

Coming off a win over Division II Lincoln, Morgan State is 2-1 on the year. The other win was a 63-53 road victory over USF, but that might be more of an indicator of the sad state of Bull basketball than anything else.

Still, the Bears do have some talent, and return a veteran group that accounted for more than 80% of its scoring and minutes, and nearly 75% of its rebounding last year.

Forward Phillip Carr (Sr., 6-9, 205 lbs.) is averaging a double-double so far, with team bests of 12 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Frontcourt mate Tyjahi Byers So., 6-10, 210 lbs.)is primarily a defender and shot blocker who has three rejections to date while grabbing 5.5 rebounds per contest.

Morgan State’s three-guard offense is paced by the epicly named LaPri McCray-Pace (Fr., 6-4, 210 lbs.), whose 11-points per game average is supported by a 5-10 showing from 3-point distance, and Martez Cameron (Jr., 5-11, 185 lbs.) who is also in double figures with 10 points per contest while dishing out five assists.

Off the bench, guard Stanley Davis provides most of the scoring punch. The 6-4, 175-pound sophomore is adding 10.3 points in fewer than 18 minutes of action per game. He’s instant offense, and West Virginia must be aware of him whenever he checks in.

Another player to watch for is Tiwian Kendley. A returning starter and an all-conference selection, Kendley has not played in any games this year for the Bears after leading the team in scoring a year ago with 21 points per game.

GAME OUTLOOK

It’s all about teaching in these early season games.

The Mountaineers can’t ignore the opponent or the scoreboard, but every trip up and down the court is a valuable one as WVU works to get experience for its mostly-new lineup. While the outcome is most-important (WVU can’t afford to stumble in any of the games it is expected to win), it’s execution, decisions and situation recognition that have to improve. This is another 40 minutes of experience that West Virginia can’t afford to waste.

WVU (1-1) vs. MSU (2-1) Sat Nov 18 7:00 PM EST
WVU Coliseum Morgantown, WV Series: WVU 2-0
RPI: WVU – 175 MSU – 321 TV: Nexstar Sirius/XM: None
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WVU dropped out of much of its pressure-the-inbounder tactics against American. Some of that was due to the way the game played out – with the Mountaineers making just 12 first-half field goals against the Eagles, tailor-made opportunities to run the zone press or jump-and-trap tactics were limited. Also playing into the picture is the fact that with some of the lineups it put on the court, West Virginia can’t, or will be much more limited, in how it presses. Sagaba Konate’s perma-seat on the bench against American also factored in, as his presence at the back of the press defending the rim was notable.

This brings up an interesting thing to track in this contest. How does WVU deploy its press? Does it go back to getting on the inbounder and trapping the first pass, and subsequent horizontal movement, aggressively? Or does it revert to more straight man pressure, and put Jevon Carter on the opposing ball-handler? What is seen in this game in terms of press tactics will give an idea of where West Virginia stands in the learning process.

West Virginia’s offense is still a work very much in progress, but one thing that works is the use of guard Teddy Allen in the post. The 6-4 freshman is built like a strong safety, and his strength, along with a nice array of moves, drop steps, leans and flips make him a good operator in the lane. Watch as WVU will post him up against guards in the lane – a nice option when the Mountaineers are playing small lineups or are overmatched in the front court. Allen against McCray-Pace, who also stands 6-4, should be entertaining, and give an idea of how Allen can operate against players of similar size.

PRESS POINTS

By not even running a parking shuttle for this game, WVU is not helping fans who want to stick around from the afternoon football game against Texas and get to the Coliseum. Parking conflicts between football and basketball when games are on the same date don’t have an optimal solution, but there isn’t an apparent reason that the shuttle from the Green Lot at the WVU hospital to the Coliseum can’t be utilized.

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WVU forward Lamont West scored ten of his 12 points at the free throw line against American. He made 10 of 13 free throws in the first half, then added one field goal at the 10:38 mark of the second half. The last time a WVU player reached double figures in scoring while making just one field goal was Nov. 25, 2012, when Gary Browne scored 13 in a loss to Oklahoma.

Only two players in WVU history, Pierre Hill and Bill Morrison, have scored in double figures in a game without making a field goal. Hill scored 15 at the line in 1922, while Morrison turned the trick 122 times in less than two months in 1920.

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Tiwian Kendley’s absence from the Bears’ early competition is a mystery. There are no indications of suspension or injury, but when a first-team all-conference selection doesn’t play at all, there’s obviously something afoot. With Kendly and Carr, the Bears could be a challenger for the MEAC title and an NCAA berth.

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Unlike many teams from lower-level conferences, Morgan State has not overscheduled this year. The WVU game is the jewel on the slate, and games with George Washington, Navy, Manhattan and George Mason provide good competition without setting the Bears up for a string of losses. They’ll als enjoy a cross-country trip to Grand Canyon and Cal State Northridge, by which time they should be well-seasoned, but not beaten down, as the enter Cconference play.