Tue, 05 Dec 2023

West Virginia eyes tougher test in matchup with SMU

Field Level Media
20 Nov 2023, 12:19 GMT+10

(Photo credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

West Virginia remains a largely unknown quantity entering Monday's game against SMU in the opening round of the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Florida.

The Mountaineers (2-1) have wins over Missouri State and Jacksonville State but also lost 73-65 to Monmouth on Nov. 10.

SMU (3-1) figures to be a good test for West Virginia in the Beach Division matchup. The Mustangs won their first three games before falling 79-66 to No. 13 Texas AM on Tuesday.

Chuck Harris scored a season-best 21 points against the Aggies and leads SMU with a 14.3 scoring average. Zhuric Phelps is averaging 13.5 points, and Tyreek Smith is contributing 10.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

"They have a lot of veteran talent on that team," West Virginia coach Josh Eilert said of the Mustangs. "They have good size and they have really good athletes. They're really deep. They're playing 10 guys, and the way they play is they kind of get up in you. They might turn the pressure up a little more on us, because they know we're short-handed."

The Mountaineers have played just eight players in each of their first three games. Only six are averaging more than eight minutes per game.

Leading scorer Quinn Slazinski (17.3 points per game) is averaging 34.7 minutes, while Jesse Edwards (14.3 points, 10.7 rebounds) averages 36 and Kobe Johnson (13.3 points) averages 34.7.

SMU won its first three games by an average of 22.3 points before being outclassed by Texas AM.

"We will get better," SMU coach Rob Lanier said afterward. "I expect us to really learn from this."

The tourney in Fort Myers represents the Mustangs' first games away from home.

"I expect them to fight when we get on the court Monday," Lanier said. "I really believe that in this group."

In West Virginia's most recent game, Johnson scored a career-high 19 points and Slazinski also scored 19 in last Monday's 70-57 home win over Jacksonville State, which followed the loss to Monmouth.

"Everybody bought in, and we had to turn the page and get that bad taste out of our mouth," Eilert said. "Nothing in what we do is going to be easy with a short-handed roster."

The winner of Monday's game will face either Wisconsin or Virginia in Wednesday's championship. The loser will play in the third-place game.

This is the first meeting between the Mountaineers and Mustangs.

--Field Level Media

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