December 29, 2014

West Virginia already has two wins over ACC opponents, and a third would likely send it into 2015 and Big 12 play quite happy with its non-conference accomplishments.

The 17th-ranked Mountaineers welcome Virginia Tech to Morgantown on Tuesday night with both teams seeking a fifth straight win.

West Virginia (11-1) has been off since last Monday, having gone into its holiday break with a 77-44 home victory over Wofford.

That followed an 83-69 win over North Carolina State in New York on Dec. 20. The Mountaineers beat Boston College 70-66 on Nov. 21 and have won five of their last six against the ACC, with the only loss coming at Virginia Tech a season ago. Their only game against a ranked team was a 78-68 victory over then-No. 17 Connecticut in the Puerto Rico Tip-off title game.

Juwan Staten had 21 points that day and 24 against N.C. State, then earned Big 12 player of the week honors after getting 17 points and 10 rebounds against Wofford for the 6-foot-1 senior's first double-double of the season.

"I'm out to prove everybody wrong," said Staten, who has felt under-appreciated in terms of where he's ranked among the nation's top point guards. "I just tried to build upon the game I had in New York. I just wanted to keep the momentum going."

Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton each added 11 points, and Jevon Carter scored 10 for the Mountaineers.

Macon, who didn't play last season due to an eligibility issue, set a season high for points.

"Elijah is starting to get better," coach Bob Huggins told the school's official website. "Here is a guy who didn't practice last year. He was in school and he just gets better and better."

The Hokies (8-4), also entering their non-conference finale, are on the verge of their first five-game winning streak since opening 2012-13 with seven straight victories. A win over the Mountaineers, though, would legitimize a streak that thus far includes victories over Alabama A&M, the Citadel, VMI and Monday's 87-65 win over Presbyterian.

Ahmed Hill scored a season-high 18 points, Jalen Hudson finished with 15, Adam Smith added 14 and Justin Bibbs and Joey Van Zegeren each scored 13.

"We definitely have a lot more work to do, but we're taking steps forward," Hudson said.

Hudson, a freshman guard, scored 12 against VMI after failing to reach double figures in his first 10 games. Coach Buzz Williams called Hudson "the most talented guy on our roster," though he's averaged 16.5 minutes and hasn't started a game.

Hill and Bibbs are also freshmen, while starting guard Devin Wilson is a sophomore. How Williams' young players fare against top competition remains to be seen, as does whether they'll remain composed against a West Virginia team that's among the national leaders in turnover margin (11.5) and steals per game (13.3).

Virginia Tech hasn't faced a ranked opponent - something it'll do plenty of in the coming months - and such matchups have resulted in 10 straight losses by an average of 15.7 points. The Hokies have played only one major conference opponent - Penn State - and shot a season-low 38.5 percent in a 61-58 road loss Dec. 3.

Things have been different against West Virginia. Virginia has won four of the last six meetings, including an 87-82 home win Nov. 12, 2013. Staten was limited to 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting. Smith had a game-high 19 points.

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