West Virginia and Rhode Island to meet in the Coliseum for the first time in Nearly 25 Years

Christopher Hall

Morgantown, WV – The West Virginia Mountaineers (6-0) welcome old Atlantic 10 Conference foe Rhode Island (5-2) to the WVU Coliseum for the first time since 1995. The Mountaineers lead the all-time series 20-13 and is 1-1 versus the Rams since West Virginia left the A-10 for the Big East Conference before the 1995-96 season.

Rhode Island is coming off a win over Manhattan on Wednesday after losing in the Championship game of the Jamaica Classic to LSU 96-83 on Sunday.

Rhode Island Probable Starters

Rams guards Fatts Russell (Jr G 5-10 165) and Jeff Dowtin (Sr. G 6-3 185) account for nearly half of the team’s points, averaging a combined 34.6 points per game. Russell has scored 20 or more points in the last five games, shooting 48.1% from the field and averaging 4.6 assists during that span. Dowtin is coming off a season-high 24 points in the win over Manhattan and shooting 54.5% from the floor the last two games.

“They’re really good,” said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins, also adding that they could be the best guard duo they’ve faced this year.

“They both can score at all levels, continued Huggins. “They can all finish around the basket. They can both put it on the floor. They can both shoot it from deep. They’re pretty well rounded offensively.”

Cyril Langevine (Sr. F 6-8 230) is averaging a double-double on the season averaging 10.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

Tyrese Martin (So. G 6-6 205) has hit double figures every other game so far this season, shooting over 50% in those four games, but in both Rams losses, he shot 33.3% (5-16 FG) or worse from the field. He’s averaging 10.7 ppg and 5.3 rpg.

Jermaine Harris (So. F 6-8 230) averages 5.0 ppg and 3.9 rpg.

West Virginia comes home after winning the Cancun Challenge with a 15-point comeback win over Northern Iowa and beating Wichita State in the championship game.

The Mountaineers struggled from behind the arc in the previous two games before Wichita State, combining to shoot 6-35 from three-point range after starting the year 17-35 in the first three games.

However, West Virginia started to find their stroke once again, hitting 7-17 from behind the arc.

“Before we left to go to Mexico, we couldn’t make a shot,” said Huggins.” You could have kicked as many in as we made that day. I said to them then, ‘you know, guys the really good teams find a way to win whether they’re making shots or not. It’s a pretty easy game when the ball is going in. We’re going to have to figure out other ways to score the ball, be it offensive rebounding – be it off our defense, but we’re going to have to find other ways to score the ball. And then once the ball starts going in then it becomes a little easier to pull the trigger.' I think that’s pretty much what happened. We scored off our defense and we offensive rebounded and scored, and finally, the ball started going in a little bit for us.”

West Virginia has had some great single-game performances, but consistency has been hard to find. Jermaine Haley started the year strong, shooting 76% from the field and averaging 12.8 points in the first four games but struggled in Cancun scoring 10 and seven points, respectively,

Emmitt Matthews Jr. might be the most consistent Mountaineer so far in this young season and there’s no doubt he’s been clutch in big moments throughout the season and none may have been bigger than the tip-in to give West Virginia the lead over Northern Iowa in the waning moments of the game.

Despite not starting him and sitting him the entire first half against Northern Colorado Huggins cites Derek Culver as the most consistent player on the team. “I think Derek has been probably our most consistent. Our guards have been, you know, we just keep hunting until we find somebody who’s playing OK. Emmitt’s been pretty consistent.”

Freshman Deuce McBride appears to be getting comfortable early in the season. His 14 points in the final nine minutes of the Northern Iowa game propelled a 15-point second-half comeback to move on to the championship game.

Then the following night, Jordan McCabe settled things down late in the game and went 7-8 from the free-throw line to seal the Cancun Championship.

It’s been player of the game by committee early in the year, but it's been freshman Oscar Tshiebwe putting up three double-doubles on the season and leading the team in scoring with 12.5 points per game and in rebounds at 9.8.

West Virginia and Rhode Island tip-off at 2:00 pm on Sunday inside the WVU Coliseum. 

The game is being broadcasted on AT&T Sportsnet or streamed at WVUSports.com.

Register today for free or log in to access this premium article.