Morgantown, WV (SportsNetwork.com) - The LSU Tigers and the 16th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers meet up at WVU Coliseum on Thursday night as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
After a disappointing fifth-place finish at the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, LSU has enjoyed a return home to Baton Rogue with back-to-back wins over McNeese State (83-72) and most recently Massachusetts on Tuesday (82-60) as it moved to 5-2. This marks the Tigers' first true road test of the season, and they went just 4-9 away from home in 2013-14.
WVU has surged into the Top-25 behind an outstanding 7-0 start to the campaign, with the early-season highlight coming during the Puerto Rico Tip- Off as it knocked off George Mason (91-65), Boston College (70-66) and Connecticut (78-68) en route to a championship. The Mountaineers remained undefeated in dominant fashion on Saturday with an 86-57 victory over the College of Charleston.
The all-time series is tied, 1-1, with the programs splitting a home-and-home series in 2004 and 2005.
The Tigers had no issue dismissing UMass in their latest contest, as they outshot their opponent from the field, 53.8 percent to 37.7 percent, on their way to the 22-point victory. Despite turning the ball over seven times, Josh Gray was still outstanding in the victory, knocking down 11-of-15 field goal attempts for a career-high 25 points to go with five assists. Jordan Mickey logged 16 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, Tim Quarterman netted 15 points off the bench and Jarell Martin added 12 points.
On the season, LSU shoots greater than 46 percent from the field for 74.4 ppg while playing solid defense as well, allowing just 67.1 ppg. It does a great job controlling the glass too, boasting a +6.0 rebounding margin. Mickey is an anchor in the paint with 17.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg and more than two blocks per contest. Martin (15.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg) joins Mickey for a strong frontcourt duo, while Gray (12.7 ppg, 4.6 apg), Keith Hornsby (11.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Quarterman (10.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg) round out the balanced attack.
After a few lead changes early in their game against Charleston, the Mountaineers pulled away for a nine-point cushion at the half and eventually cruised to the 29-point decision. They shot 45.5 percent from the field, which was actually less than Charleston's 47.7 percent, but they attempted 22 more field goals by dominating both the rebounding (41-25) and turnover (18-7) battles. Jonathan Holton paced the winning effort with 21 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Jaysean Paige and Juwan Staten netted 15 and 10 points, respectively, while Devin Williams hauled in nine rebounds.
WVU has developed a similar theme all season long. Despite getting outshot by its opponents, 46.9 percent to 42.1 percent, it boasts outstanding margins in terms of scoring (+19.6), rebounding (+7.4) and especially turnovers (+12.6, second-best in the nation). Staten leads the way with 15.1 ppg and 4.3 apg. Jonathan Holton (12.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg), Williams (11.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Jevon Carter (9.3 ppg) are also regular contributors.