After a great home victory against Grambling State, the University of Connecticut will travel all the way to the mountains of West Virginia for a non-conference clash against West Virginia University on Wednesday.
The Mountaineers, who stand at 7-1, have had a quality start to the year. UConn will be the first ranked opponent that West Virginia has faced this season. While the Mountaineers have had a relatively light schedule compared to UConn, the team has talent. Taz Sherman, who leads the team in points at 21 points per game, has been great for the Mountaineers. He’ll be looking to keep up his quality scoring against starting point guard R.J. Cole.
Other than Sherman, the team has a huge scoring drop-off, with the team’s second leading scorer being guard Sean Mcneil at 12.0 points per game. The team’s leading rebounder is Jalen Bridges at 5.0 points per game. West Virginia has had a difficult time on defense this season, with an opponent field goal percentage of 45%. That’s good for 269th in the country compared to the Huskies, who are ranked 16th in the entire country.
UConn will continue to play without two of its key players in center Adama Sanogo and forward Tyrese Martin. Both were quality scoring options, when healthy, as both players scored 15.6 and 12.9 points per game respectively. While the Huskies will be without two crucial players, their depth has stepped up to keep the team in games. Freshman Jordan Hawkins, who had 15 points in Saturday’s start against Grambling State, has looked dangerously good for the team and provides a huge scoring boost to alleviate the pressure off Cole.
On the defensive side, the team will need to come to play. With a player as good as Sherman, Cole will have a tough task of cooling off the hot hand of the West Virginia guard. However, with a team leading 15 steals on the season, the fifth-year Huskies guard is certainly up for the challenge. Players like Isaiah Whaley, Akok Akok and Andre Jackson will seek to put pressure on the Mountaineers offense with tough interior defense, symbolized by double digit block numbers for all three players.
The game is set to be an exciting guard matchup between Cole and Sherman. Who will come out on top in this Big East-Big 12 matchup? ESPN’s BPI gives UConn a 50.7% chance to win with a tough battle for the Huskies incoming. While the Huskies head into this game down two men, they are determined to continue to play with passion and heart. The game will tipoff on ESPN2 at 7:00 p.m.