Although it wasn’t the easiest at times, the WVU Mountaineers men’s basketball team has been undefeated in their first two outings of the year.
In a poor offensive showing, they took down Oakland in the opener by seven points.
This margin wasn’t nearly enough for WVU basketball backers. West Virginia sportsbooks had the Mountaineers lying around -17.5 in the point spread against the Golden Grizzlies.
Despite a much better performance in the second tilt against rival Pittsburgh, WVU fell short in terms of covering again.
It won by a final of 74-59 but didn’t do enough to cover the line of -17.
The Mountaineers built a 12-point lead heading into halftime but finished up by only 15. Their cushion extended to 21 with about five minutes remaining, but Pitt made a couple of plays down the stretch with the game basically wrapped up.
While it’s 0-2 against the spread, WVU is 2-0 in the actual standings and looking to build on its start. It hosts Elon on Thursday night in another contest where it’s favored at WV online sportsbooks.
Mountaineers Win First Two
After a year in which most fans couldn’t attend college basketball games, it was a nice beginning of the season for those in Morgantown.
Around 23,500 people total viewed the first two contests of the year at WVU Coliseum. The team will likely need its advantage for several home meetings.
Lots of familiar faces led the Mountaineers to their first two victories.
Even though a lot of shots weren’t falling against Oakland, it was seniors Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil who remained effective. Sherman was the game’s leading scorer, while McNeil was the only other WVU player to reach double digits.
He hit four of nine attempts from the field, including two of WVU’s four shots from deep.
A total of nine Mountaineers scored overall, but they only shot around 40% from the field and 19% from beyond the arc.
Besides the W, the other positive from the first tilt was the play on the defensive end. WVU forced Oakland into a terrible shooting day as well, to go along with 25 turnovers.
One major cause for concern was the rebounding discrepancy, where the home side lost by 15.
Things got significantly better for the Mountaineers on offense in game two. They shot over 50% overall and right around 41% from three.
Sherman and McNeil had almost identical outings in terms of scoring, but two others stood out.
Sophomore Jalen Bridges topped all others in points with 18, to go with six rebounds and five blocks.
Senior transfer Malik Curry was strong off the bench. He recorded 10 points on just five shots, three assists and two steals in only 12 minutes on the floor.
The defense allowed Pitt to score much more efficiently; however, WVU again held its opponent to fewer than 60 points. It won the turnover battle by a sizable margin in creating 32 Panther giveaways.
Rebounding was a weak area again, though. The Mountaineers nabbed just 20 boards, while surrendering 36 to their opponent.
WVU Basketball Vs. Elon Preview
WVU may have escaped the first two matchups with wins, but it will be difficult to continue to do so with such poor rebounding. Against quality teams, this will come back to hurt the Mountaineers.
As head coach Bob Huggins works on this, he’s hoping for another triumph this week. WVU plays the Elon Phoenix at home again on Thursday.
Elon enters this one with a 2-1 record and more talent than some would expect. It won its previous two games against lesser-known programs but put up a good fight in its initial contest with Florida.
Elon outscored the Gators by 10 points in the second half and kept the game within range.
The Phoenix gets scoring help from several different guys, with five averaging over 11 points per game right now. Junior guard Zac Ervin leads all others at almost 16 per outing.
He produced an incredible 29 points to set his career best in Elon’s most recent victory against Bluefield College.
WVU should have the size advantage in this game in general, which is likely to help in the rebound department. Elon’s looked good on the glass in previous games, however, winning the last two by at least a difference of 10.
Sophomore forward Michael Graham is a force in the paint, averaging 10 boards per game at the moment.
The Mountaineers feature three players with an average of 4.5 rebounds, including senior Gabe Osabuohien.
Generating turnovers has helped them cover up some of their rebounding inefficiencies. In spite of not contributing much on the offensive side, senior Kedrian Johnson is averaging 5.5 steals per game, which is tops in the country.
WVU Basketball Odds At WV Sportsbooks
Unfortunately, WV sportsbooks don’t have any odds up yet for this individual matchup. The betting line will be released closer to the start of the game.
Those looking to back the Mountaineers should expect to give a lot of points.
Florida was laying -18.5 against Elon in its first tilt of the year. Since WVU hasn’t hammered any opponent yet, it should be giving a couple of points fewer than this.
Sportsbooks will probably have odds available by Wednesday evening.
The outright result of this one shouldn’t be up in the air too long. According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Mountaineers have about an 83% chance of coming away with a win.
If you believe this is just the start of a good stretch for them, you may want to hop on a couple of futures before their odds are reduced. At FanDuel WV, the Mountaineers are posted at +2000 to make the Final Four.