MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A two-game break from contests against ranked teams didn’t end West Virginia’s (13-7, 2-5 Big 12) losing streak, which has now stretched to five games following Saturday’s loss to Arkansas.
WVU will now begin another stretch of three-straight games against ranked opponents, beginning Monday night against No. 4 Baylor (18-3, 6-2 Big 12).
While many would see the upcoming schedule as a challenge given the Mountaineers’ recent struggles, Bob Huggins sees things differently.
“It’s not tough. It’s an opportunity,” Huggins said Saturday. “It’s an opportunity that I’m really looking forward to. And those guys headed for the bus better feel the same way. It’s an opportunity for us.”
Monday’s contest will be the second meeting in less than two weeks between West Virginia and Baylor. Not only that, but it will be the second time that the two will meet with both teams coming off of a loss.
Kedrian Johnson’s career-high 18 points were not enough to lift the Mountaineers over the Razorbacks, Saturday, in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Just two hours later, the Bears were upset on the road by an unranked Alabama team.
Scott Drew’s team has won each of its last three Big 12 contests, while Huggins’ group hasn’t beaten a conference foe since winning back-to-back games against Kansas State and Oklahoma State earlier this month.
Baylor continues to have the best scoring margin in the Big 12, outscoring opposing teams by an average of 18 points per game.
Adam Flagler, LJ Cryer and James Akinjo have been three of the top eight scorers in the Big 12 since league play began, with all three averaging at least 14 points per game. Cryer scored a game-high 25 points, and Flagler added 14, in Baylor’s win over West Virginia earlier this month.
“I’m still galled by what happened in the Coliseum,” Huggins said Saturday. “We had a chance to win that game.”
Akinjo did play against the Crimson Tide, but has missed two of Baylor’s last four games due to a tailbone injury. The guard didn’t suit up against the Mountaineers in Morgantown, but his production was replaced by Matthew Mayer’s 20 points on the strength of five made 3-pointers.
West Virginia’s top three-point threat has been largely silenced as of late. Following his 17-point performance against the Bears, Sean McNeil has been held to just seven points per game over the last three contests.
“Sean is a one-dimensional jump shooter. I mean, you can’t invert him and play him in the post,” Huggins said. “He’s not a point guard. He is a very good jump shooter.”
While crediting Arkansas for defending McNeil well, Huggins wants the shooting guard to be less hesitant at pulling the trigger.
“I thought he had an open shot and he jumped up in the air and passed it, and it got stolen,” Huggins said about one particular play versus Arkansas. “I said shoot the ball. Yeah. He should shoot the ball.”
Malik Curry, who is averaging 14 points per game over the last five contests, led the Mountaineers with 19 points against the Bears in the previous meeting. Curry, McNeil and Taz Sherman combined to score 54 of West Virginia’s 68 points that night.
“I’m looking forward to playing Baylor. I’m looking forward to playing Baylor in Waco,” Huggins said.
Monday’s meeting in Waco is another late tip for West Virginia fans.
Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. Eastern, and the game can be seen on ESPN and WatchESPN applications.