Preview: WVU – NJIT

Preview: WVU – NJIT


SCOUTING THE HIGHLANDERS

Located in Newark, the New Jersey Institute of Technology will be playing its first game outside the city limits when it travels to West Virginia for Thursday night’s game. The Highlanders have won four of the five games played on their new home court, the Wellness and Events Center, and have also dropped one contest to Seton Hall at the Prudential Center. With a pair of recent wins over Drexel and LIU Brooklyn, they have a bit of momentum as they take their second shot at an upset of a Top 25 team – Seton Hall was #22 when NJIT fell by the score of 83-52.

Picked to finish last in the eight-team Atlantic Sun Conference (NJIT is by far the northernmost member of the league), the Highlanders have gotten off to a bit better start that most expected. Junior power forward Abdul Lewis (6-10, 255 lbs.) has been strong inside, averaging a double-double with 11 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Around him is arrayed a typical mid-major lineup of guards and swingmen, chief among them junior Diandre Wilson (6-2, 170 lbs.), who leads the team with 11.5 points and nearly two steals per game.

Joining Wilson in the starting lineup are a trio of youngsters, Freshmen Shyquan Gibbs (6-1, 150 lbs.) and Anthony Tarke (6-6, 205 lbs.) haven’t been overwhelmed in the early going. Gibbs has been patient on the offensive end, and has made 73.7% of his limited shots, including 7-9 from distance. Tarke averages 10.5  per game, and also helps with rebounding work at 4.5 per. He and Lewis are the only Highlanders with more than 2.5 boards per game — a weak spot that the Mountaineers will hope to exploit.

Reilly Walsh (6-3, 180 lbs.) holds down the fifth staring position, but shares time with four backups who average more than 11 minutes per game each.

NJIT has shot the ball well as a team, making 48.7% of its tries from the field. That hasn’t translated to the free throw line, where it hovers just below 60%. Wilson and Gibbs, along with backups Zach Cooks and Chris Jenkins, have combined to make 34 of their 64 3-point attempts, and do a good job of spreading the floor around the inside presence of Lewis to provide a reasonably balanced attack.

GAME OUTLOOK

NJIT can challenge WVU in a couple of areas, but this game should serve as a good working point for the Virginia home showdown next Tuesday.

WVU (6-1) vs. NJIT (4-2) Thu Nov 30 7:00 PM EST
WVU Coliseum Morgantown, WV Series: 1st Meeting
RPI: WVU – 18 NJIT – 233 TV: AT&T SportsNet Sirius/XM: None
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The Highlanders have a couple of players who can stress WVU on the boards, and with three guards who are pesky ballhawks, can also cause the Mountaineers some trouble if they are loose with their passing or careless on drives. Still, this is a game that West Virginia should put in the win column. Watch for NJIT to apply a bit of pressure defensively, and to spread the court as wide as possible on offense. The Highlanders will try to take advantage of their solid 3-point shooting and get early opportunity shots against a WVU defense that is still very inconsistent in recovering after the ball moves across the midcourt line. Combine that with the ugly defensive showing in the first 30 minutes against Missouri, and there’s much to watch in this play phase as the Mountaineers work to correct assignment and rotation errors.

On the individual front, Sagaba Konate obviously needs to continue to work on his self-control and managing his frustration. Two early fouls against Missouri took his head right out of the game, and a fourth caused him to emit a statement that earned him a technical and a seat on the bench. While he’s still young, he has been playing long enough to understand the consequences of getting frustrated — no one on the team is affected more than he when he attitude isn’t right. WVU fans will have to wait until the next rough stretch confronts him to see how much he has learned, and if he can keep his cool when bad things happen.

Then there’s Daxter Miles, whose stellar night helped rescue West Virginia in the finals of the Advocare Invitational. Can he finally become the consistent player he has the ability to be? He might be the most physically gifted of any player on the Mountaineer roster, but he can’t have the rollercoaster performances that have marked his career to date. As head coach Bob Huggins noted, he is a leader on this team, and even if his shot isn’t falling he has to rebound, defend and do all the other things that can bring wins even when the points aren’t forthcoming.

PRESS POINTS

The Highlanders have the dubious distinction of owning a losing streak of 51 games, running from 2007-09. That is an NCAA Division I record, which it finally ended with a Jan. 21, 2009 win over Bryant. NJIT was competing in transitional seasons to Division I during that time, as it was reclassifying to Division I during that period.

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Jevon Carter needs two steals to tie and three to set WVU’s all-time steals record. The “original” Greg Jones (1980-83) had 251 steals in 122 games. Carter has 249 swipes in 114 contests, and leads the nation this year with 31.

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This is NJIT’s third year as a member of the Atlantic Sun. The Highlanders were caught up in the spate of conference realignment several years ago, and spend two seasons as an independent after the Great West Conference, wwhich it as a member of for four years, dissolved in 2013.

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Bob Hugginis has faced 228 different teams as a Division I head coach, and will increase that number by one when the Mountaineers tip-off against NJIT.