Hokies challenge 17th-ranked Mountaineers

Morgantown, WV (SportsNetwork.com) - The 17th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers close out the non-conference portion of their schedule on Tuesday evening, as they play host to the Virginia Tech Hokies at WVU Coliseum.

 

Buzz Williams' first season in Blacksburg has gotten off to a fast start. The Hokies are sitting at a solid 8-4 on the season thanks to the team's current four-game win streak. Virginia Tech was in action on Saturday and blew out Presbyterian at the Cassell Coliseum, 87-65.

 

Bob Huggins' Mountaineers have quietly gone about their business this season, but continue to rise in the national rankings thanks to wins in 11 of their first 12 games. West Virginia is also sporting a four-game win streak entering this contest, but has been idle since a Dec. 22 lopsided victory over Wofford (77-44).

 

These two teams have quite the history. Former Big East foes (2000-03), West Virginia and Virginia Tech are meeting for the 78th time in a series that dates back to 1921. The Mountaineers hold a 47-30 series advantage, but the Hokies have won four of the last six meetings, including an 87-82 victory in Blacksburg last season.

Both teams got off to slow starts, but Virginia Tech started distancing itself from Presbyterian thanks to a 15-5 run in the first half and took a 45-32 lead into intermission. The Hokies maintained a double-digit lead over the final 20 minutes to post their fourth straight win. Freshman Ahmed Hill led the team with a career-high 18 points. Four other Hokies joined Hill in double digits, as Jalen Hudson (15 pts), Adam Smith (14 pts), Justin Bibbs (13 pts) and Joey van Zegeren (13 pts) all joined the offensive onslaught, as Tech shot a sizzling .536 from the floor in the victory.

Offensive proficiency has been the name of the game under Williams this season. The Hokies are averaging a modest 70.8 ppg, but are making the most of each and every trip down the floor, converting just under 50 percent of their shots (.492). Long-range acumen is also a strength, with the team knocking down over 41 percent from behind the arc. Bibbs headlines a trio of double- digit scoring threats for Tech with his 12.7 ppg. Smith is a close second at 12.4 ppg, followed by van Zegeren's 10.4 ppg.

 

West Virginia isn't getting it done with quite the same accuracy, but the team is still putting up a hefty 78.7 ppg. A lot of that has to do with the Mountaineers' tenacity on the defensive end. The team is forcing an impressive 22.8 turnovers per game and leads the nation in steals (159), steals per game (13.3) and turnover margin (+11.2). Offensively, West Virginia is led by senior guard Juwan Staten, who is netting 15.9 ppg. Forwards Jonathan Holton (11.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Devin Williams (10.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg) provide frontcourt balance.

 

The Mountaineers once again dominated an opponent, as smothering defense was simply too much for Wofford to overcome in WVU's 33-point romp last time out. Huggins' squad jumped out to an 18-2 lead and never looked back from there, as the team held the Terriers to a mere 11 field goals in the entire game. Staten once again led the charge, posting a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Holton added 10 points and key reserves Elijah Macon and Jevon Carter tacked on 11 and 10 points, respectively in the rout.

 

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