Mountaineers, Shockers to Square off in Cancun Challenge Championship

Christopher Hall

Riviera Maya, Mexico – The West Virginia Mountaineers (5-0) outscored Northern Iowa 33-13 in the final 10:34 to knock off the Panthers 66-55 Tuesday night to advance to the Championship Round of the Cancun Challenge.

Awaiting the Mountaineers is the Wichita State Shockers (6-0) after dismantling the South Carolina Gamecocks 70-47. Erik Stevenson led all scorers with 19 points, corralled a team-high eight rebounds, dished four assists and three steals to guide the Shockers to the lopsided win.

Probable Starters

Erik Stevenson (So. G 6-3 198) 12.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg

Dexter Dennis (So. G 6-5 207) 9.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg

Grant Sherfield (Fr. G 6-2 189) 7.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg

Morris Udeze (So. C 6-8 240) 7.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg 42.9% (15-35) 3PT

Trey Wade (Jr. F 6-6 219) 11.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg 50% (9-18) 3PT

The Mountaineers were being outplayed and quite frankly out-toughed in the first 29 minutes against Northern Iowa. But then, freshman guard Deuce McBride played big in the final nine minutes, scoring all 14 of his second-half points to spark a 25-9 run to pull out the win.

Sean McNeil hit a couple of daggers during the run, including a three to cut get within six and Emmit Mattews Jr putback to give West Virginia a one-point lead with 16 seconds remaining that also drew a flagrant one foul after landing on the back of his head. 

West Virginia shooting struggles continued on Tuesday night. In the last two games, the Mountaineers are 6-35 from behind the arc. Whereas the first three games West Virginia was shooting 48.6% (17-35) from three.

The Mountaineers were outrebounded in the win over Northern Iowa 40-35. A team that was expected to dominate the boards has been far from it. In the wins over Pitt and Northern Colorado, West Virginia controlled the glass with an average differential of 17.5 rebounds. In the other three games, The Mountaineers grabbed one more rebound in the season-opening win over Akron and just five more than Boston before losing the rebounding battle on Tuesday.

Some of this can be contributed to Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe learning to play with one another but its’ been the opposing guards cleaning up the glass.

On the season, West Virginia (43.1% FG) and Wichita State (42.2% FG) haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire with their offense and it might come down to second-chance points. The Mountaineers average 13.2 offensive rebounds per game while the Shockers at 12.8. Overall, Wichita State has a slight advantage coming into the game averaging 41.7 to West Virginia’s 40.8.

West Virginia and Wichita State tip-off at 8:30 Wednesday night on CBS Sports Network.

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