Gonzaga at West Virginia
Game Time: 6 p.m. PST
Tickets: NCAA College Basketball tickets
Teams Records: GU – 8-1 – WVU 6-3
Leading Scorers: GU – Pangos 19.8 – WVU – Harris 18.9
Leading Rebounders: GU – Karnowski 7.6 – WVU – Williams 7.8
Leading Distributors: GU – Stockton 4.9 – WVU – Staten 7.2
Gary Bell Jr.
Samuel Dower Jr.
Gonzaga will make the trek all the way out to Morgantown, West Virginia to play its first true road game of the season. In front of a raucous crowd, the Bulldogs will look to add a quality road victory to a resume that it will need come March. The nationally televised game could possibly be GU’s biggest test thus far this season, and here is a closer look at the team providing that challenge, the West Virginia Mountaineers.
AP Poll: NR
Coaches Poll: NR
West Virginia certainly remembers the whipping it took in Spokane last season, and will be seeking to return the favor in Morgantown.
Since last season, the Mountaineers have greatly improved on the offensive end. Last season, WVU scored only 66.1 points per game and averaged 65.7 possessions. This season, the Mountaineers are scoring 83.6 points per game and averaging 69.9 possessions, an improvement in efficiency from last season.
A lot of this has to do with the backcourt combination of Eron Harris and Juwan Staten. The sophomore and junior guards’ production has more than doubled (17.4 PPG to 35.2 PPG). Both players are shooting .500 or better from three-point range, something these two players could not even sniff last season.
Staten is fifth in the country in assists per game with 7.2. He is truly the player that makes the Mountaineers offense function.
Unlike a good portion of last season, WVU has been competitive in every game they have played. West Virginia has 3 losses on the season against Missouri, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin, all major conference schools. In all three games the Mountaineers only lost by single-digits and remained competitive for all 40 minutes, something that did not occur all last season.
The Mountaineers are still looking for a marquee victory this season, and a win over the Zags would certainly provide that.
West Virginia was only predicted to finish 7th in the Big 12 this season.
Keys to the Game
Gary Bell Jr.
In the Zags win versus New Mexico State, Bell Jr. left the game with an apparent hip injury. Bell is crucial for the Bulldogs in this game for a myriad of different reasons, but primarily for his defense presence and athleticism. The junior guard will likely be given the task of guarding WVU leading scorer Harris if available.
Bell is expected to be ready for the game, but will he be 100%? Only time will tell.
Przemek Karnowski, All 7’1” of Him
West Virginia is usually a physical team (most Bob Huggins coached teams are), but this season the Mountaineers don’t have a lot of height. WVU’s tallest player is 6’9”, a stark comparison to New Mexico State center Sim Bhullar, who is 7’5”. Gonzaga starting center Karnowski played fairly well against the monstrosity that is Bhullar, pulling down 9 boards and putting up 9 points. Karnowski will need to be aggressive and utilize this size disparity. The monster Polish center could have a breakout game against the Mountaineers.