West Virginia-Virginia Tech Preview
West Virginia has gotten plenty of time to rest up for its longest road stretch of the season and will begin that in front of a capacity matinée crowd.
The 19th-ranked Mountaineers will seek to handle Virginia Tech just as they did last season when the nonconference rivals meet up in Blacksburg on Wednesday.
West Virginia (10-1) will end its eight-day break for one of its final games outside of Big 12 play. The Mountaineers visit Florida on Jan. 30, and open its conference season with trips to Kansas State and TCU.
"If we're going to be what (the players) say they want to be then that's what good teams do. They go into somebody else's house and win," coach Bob Huggins said.
West Virginia has won its past three games by an average of 28.3 points, but Huggins wasn't pleased with a "lackluster effort" in the second half of an 84-59 victory against Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 21. Jaysean Paige had a team-best 17 points off the bench in that game.
"If we just do what we are capable of doing we'll be fine - but we've got to do it," he said after his team was outscored 37-34 in the final 20 minutes.
Even with that second-half performance, the Mountaineers have won their six home contests by an average of 40.0 points. Their margin has been 9.0 points while going 4-1 outside Morgantown but much of that stemmed from a 70-54 defeat to then-No. 10 Virginia in New York on Dec. 8.
West Virginia has won two of the past three meetings with Virginia Tech (8-4) since that series was renewed in December 2012 following an eight-season hiatus and routed the Hokies 82-51 on Dec. 30, 2014. The teams met every season from 1968-2004.
The Mountaineers, though, have lost in each of their past two trips to Blacksburg and fell 87-82 in the most recent visit Nov. 12, 2013. They were held to 35.7 percent shooting in that game, but connected at 50.8 in last season's meeting and went 10 of 24 from 3-point range.
They also limited Virginia Tech to a 4-of-14 showing from beyond the arc while outrebounding the Hokies 36-22, including 16-5 on the offensive glass.
West Virginia is among the nation's leaders this season with 18.1 offensive rebounds, 12.0 steals and 21.9 turnovers forced per game. It's also allowing opponents to shoot just 22.4 percent from 3-point range.
That could neutralize one of Virginia Tech's best weapons in Justin Bibbs, who is among the NCAA's best with a 61.5 percent connection rate from beyond the arc (32 of 52). He went 7 of 10 on 3-pointers while scoring a career-high 31 points in an 87-52 drubbing of Grambling State on Dec. 19 but fell flat in his encore Dec. 22.
He had eight points in a 79-62 loss to Saint Joseph's in Brooklyn and failed to make a 3-pointer for the first time this season, going 0 for 2.
The Hokies' leading scorers are a pair of transfers, Zach LeDay (14.9 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.3), but they have lost another newcomer, freshman Chris Clarke, for an indefinite period with a fractured right foot.
Clarke was averaging 10.5 points and was second on the team with 7.5 rebounds per game.
Virginia Tech has lost 18 straight to ranked opponents and fell 99-77 to then-No. 4 Iowa State on Nov. 27 in its only other matchup this season.