MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia hops the border to the Buckeye State to face Xavier in the Big East-Big 12 Battle on Saturday. The game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET and it will be shown on FOX Sports 1.
The Mountaineers (6-1) will revisit plenty of old memories when it tips off at the Cintas Center. For one, they will again face an opponent from their former home in the Big East Conference. On a personal level, WVU coach Bob Huggins will go up against an old rival in the Musketeers (5-3) dating back to his days as the storied coach of Cincinnati.
“I don’t have any good thoughts of Xavier whatsoever,” Huggins said ahead of the clash.
Part of that, presumably, is because of his most recent meeting with his former rival. WVU has faced Xavier just twice in history, most recently in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers eliminated the Mountaineers, 79-75.
West Virginia makes its first-ever trip to Cincinnati to face Xavier on Saturday and it is a hungry squad after a trip to Portland. WVU earned fifth place at the Phil Knight Legacy over Thanksgiving weekend, taking two wins and a loss to Purdue.
That loss might end up helping WVU more than it could hurt it at the end of the season, as the Boilermakers went on to win the event and jump 19 spots in the AP Poll to No. 5. West Virginia was unable to crack this week’s poll, but received votes for the first time since December 2021.
The Musketeers also competed at the Phil Knight Legacy and took a win and two losses. Again, though, those losses might only help their resume, as they fell to both Duke and Gonzaga by single digits after beating Florida.
Xavier presents a unique challenge for WVU that the Mountaineers haven’t yet faced this season. The lead Musketeer is 6-10 forward Jack Nunge, who leads the team with 13.4 points per game. The stretch big man is not only lights-out from inside the arc, shooting over 61 percent on his 2-pointers, but he is also deadly from downtown with a 3-point percentage of 36.5.
Nunge will be much different than Purdue forward Zach Edey, who gave WVU trouble with his 7-foot-4 frame.
“I think their bigs are much more versatile [than Purdue’s],” Huggins said. “I didn’t see the big fella out there [Edey] shooting threes.”
WVU’s squad this year definitely has the talent to counter the Musketeers, and it knows how to put up points. Four different Mountaineers are scoring double figures this season while that quartet passes the scoring standard every night.
Right now, sharpshooting guard Erik Stevenson leads the pack with 14.1 points per game.
On brand, Huggins still sees plenty of areas for his team to improve upon, namely, in its ball security. WVU has given away double-digit turnovers in all but one of its seven games this season, and the Hall of Fame coach insists that the Mountaineers would be undefeated if they didn’t lose the ball 12 times against Purdue.
“I thought by and large we played pretty well [in Portland], we just throw it around too much….We’ve got to take better care of the basketball,” Huggins said. “We throw it around like that against Xavier, it’s going to be a long night. They have a lot of veterans and they’ll have it going the other way.”
Tip-off between West Virginia and Xavier is set for 6:30 p.m. ET and it will be shown on FS1.