West Virginia coach Bob Huggins hopes his No. 22 Mountaineers have no trouble getting up for their nonconference matchup against No. 2 Ohio State in Cleveland on Sunday.
The Mountaineers (10-1) occasionally have looked past their opponents, as was the case in their most recent game, a 75-64 win at Youngstown State last Saturday.
West Virginia displayed a lack of concentration by making 5 of 17 from 3-point range and converting just 10 of 20 free throws, continuing a season-long trend.
“Generally, when your mind’s not right, when you take some things for granted, the stat that shows up in is free-throw shooting,” Huggins said. “We were horrible. That’s an indication that you’re not fully engaged.
The Mountaineers are shooting 67.3 percent from the line to rank in the bottom half of the 350 Division I teams.
“When you come out with a lackadaisical mindset, which we had — we had a lackadaisical mindset and kind of a lackadaisical attitude — you don’t make free throws,” Huggins said.
West Virginia must be at its best against the Buckeyes (11-1), who are coming off a 71-65 victory over Kentucky in Las Vegas last Saturday.
The No. 19 Wildcats were ranked sixth at the time of their defeat, adding to OSU’s impressive resume which includes 25-point wins over Villanova and at North Carolina when each was in the top 10, and a 32-point victory vs. current No. 20 Penn State.
“That’s a top 1, 2, 3 team. That’s what they are,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of the Buckeyes. “They’re a very good defensive team. They played very physical. They’re a bump and grind kind of team.”
The Buckeyes’ only blip was an 81-74 loss at Minnesota on Dec. 15.
“I’ve said it after big wins, I’ve said it after tough losses: You’re not defined by any one game in college basketball,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “What you’re really defined by is how you progress and grow as the season goes on.”
The growth for Ohio State is exemplified by freshman guard D.J. Carton, who had a team-high 15 points vs. Kentucky. He also made a critical steal that led to a layup by Luther Muhammad for a 59-54 lead.
“We know what kind of player D.J. is and what he can bring to us,” OSU forward Kyle Young said. “He was able to stay poised for us, make some big plays down the stretch and we’re happy to have him out there.”
Holtmann said Carton soaks up the advice of the veterans like Young, Andre and Kaleb Wesson, and C.J. Walker.
Carton is tied with Duane Washington Jr. for second in team scoring (11.1).
“I think that’s important when you have a freshman point guard out there that he can take a lead from some of those guys,” Holtmann said. “They level him out at times, but give him credit, a lot of credit, he obviously made a lot of plays.”
–Field Level Media