Morgantown, WV (SportsNetwork.com) - The team with the best record in the Big 12 Conference takes aim at its eighth straight win on Saturday night, as the 14th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers host the 17th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones at WVU Coliseum.
West Virginia, which actually sits behind fellow Big 12 member, No. 12 Kansas in the latest AP Poll, has just a single blemish on its record, a 74-73 loss to LSU last month during the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Earlier this week, the Mountaineers moved to 2-0 in conference play with a 78-67 triumph over Texas Tech on the road, the same score the program posted against TCU this time last week in the conference opener.
The 14-1 start for West Virginia is the best since the team was a staggering 24-1 during the 1981-82 campaign, when it finished 27-4 overall.
As for the Cyclones, they've dropped only two decisions this season, falling to Maryland by nine points during the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in November, and then coming up short versus South Carolina at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last weekend, 64-60. Iowa State did rebound though, capturing a narrow 63-61 win over Oklahoma State in the Big 12 opener on Tuesday night at home.
Iowa State, which is hoping to start the Big 12 portion of the schedule with consecutive wins for the second time in as many seasons, owns a 3-1 edge in an all-time series that just began in 2013. Last season, the teams split a pair of meetings, with the Mountaineers taking down 11th-ranked ISU at home by a score of 102-77, only to be turned away in an 83-66 final in Ames a little over two weeks later.
In a game that featured seven ties and nine lead changes, the Cyclones were outscored in the second half by three points but made their advantage from the first half stand up versus Oklahoma State at home. Dustin Hogue tallied 17 points and eight rebounds for the hosts, followed by Matt Thomas and Georges Niang with 10 points apiece. Bryce Dejean-Jones, a transfer from UNLV, accounted for six points and a team-high nine rebounds, shot only 2-of-7 from the floor.
Niang checks in as the top overall scorer for the Cyclones with 15.2 ppg, one of five players in double figures for a group that is one of the highest- scoring in the nation overall with 80.9 ppg. Dejean-Jones, the Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year, is responsible for another 13.4 ppg and is first on the glass with 6.1 rpg, followed by Naz Long (12.8 ppg), Hogue (11.8 ppg) and Monte Morris (10.1 ppg), the latter also handing out 69 assists for a program that averages close to 19 dishes per contest.
Shooting just 35.3 percent from the field in the first half, including 3-of-12 beyond the arc in the period versus Texas Tech, it was difficult to imagine WVU as a top-20 program with that performance. However, the Mountaineers turned it around in the second half with 62.1 percent accuracy from the floor, although they still had issues out on the perimeter (1-of-5) and at the free- throw line (9-of-17), en route to the double-digit victory.
Juwan Staten led five players in double figures with his 16 points on only 6- of-15 shooting from the field and 3-of-8 at the charity stripe. Devin Williams produced 14 points, Daxter Miles and Gary Browne 12 apiece and Jevon Carter 11 points and four steals off the bench.
Staten continues to be one of the leading sources of offense for West Virginia with his 16.1 ppg, accounting for a team-best 56 assists along the way as well. Williams (10.6 ppg) and Jonathan Holton (10.4 ppg) are also capable of putting up significant offensive numbers, often creating their own shots while pulling down almost three offensive rebounds per game each.