SCOUT-ing: West Virginia Mountaineers - UMKC Kangaroos

West Virginia faces UMKC for the first time while attempting to get a milestone win for its head coach, Bob Huggins.

SCOUTING THE KANGAROOS

UMKC is coming off a Thursday night home loss to Omaha, leaving the Roos very little time to travel and prepare for West Virginia. They'll be limited to a walk-through and a shootaround, and will likely be more concerned with recovery than anything else as they travel to meet their second Big 12 foe of the season (Kansas 105-62 L). That won't stop Kareem Richardson's team from firing away, though. UMKC has taken 294 of its 739 shots from beyond the arc, and has seen good results with that tactic. The Roos are making 40.5% of its shots from distance.

UMKC has had a jumble of starting lineups this year, with eight different players getting at least one initial assignment on the court. Part of that is due to the recent suspension and dismissal of Martez Harrison, who had started the first six games of the season while averaging 16.5 points per game. Harrison was reportedly dismissed for violations of Title IX, which covers gender discrimination and sexual harassment and violence. The action was termed “a violation of athletic department policy”, but whatever the reason, Harrison is no longer a member of the squad.

His departure leaves LaVell Boyd (G, 6-0, 180 lbs.) as the team's go-to scorer. Boyd is one of several snipers on the team, and is also deadly from the free throw line, where he has made 86% of his tries. At 19.8 points per game, he's a scorer that has to be accounted for on every possession. Forward Kyle Steward (6-7 195 lbs.) and center Darnell Tillman (6-8, 250 lbs.) are the other two players who have started all 12 of UMKC's games. Steward leads a parade of contributing scorers at 8.3 points per outing, and is second on the team in rebounding with 4.2 per contest. Tillman leads in the latter category at 5.4 per, while adding a couple of buckets per game on close in-shots.

Guards Dashawn King (6-3, 205 lbs.) and Isaiah Ross (6-4, 195 lbs.) are the odds-on favorites to hold down the other two starting spots. Ross averages 8.0 points per game, while King checks in with 3.4. Both defer to Boyd for ball handling duties.

GAME OUTLOOK

With nine players averaging between three and eight points per game, UMKC builds an offensive attack that, in addition to relying on the three, also emphasizes the ability of everyone on the floor being able to score. They do that, however, with less than great accompanying defense, yielding 80 points per game to their opponents.

WVU (7-1) vs. UMKC (7-5) Sat Dec 17 2:00 PM EST
WVU Coliseum Morgantown, WV Series: 1st Meeting
RPI: WVU - 62 UMKC - 143 TV: ROOT Sirius/XM: 145 / 201

That makes the challenge for WVU two-fold. First, this will be a good chance to work on close out defense. UMKC won't hesitate for fire away from distance when it gets past the press. Much like Temple, if their shooters are on, they can make things tough for their opposition. West Virginia figures to get its share of turnovers, but it can't just rely on that aspect of defense. It must be able to slow the ball when it crosses halfcourt and allow backcourt defenders to recover. They can't simply run back into the lane – they must identify shooters and get to them before they can get their feet set and receive passes to launch shots. With nine players who have taken at least then threes this year, that's pretty much the entire roster. Only Tillman and backup Duane Clark haven't taken a three, and of the outside shooters, only King (3-14) is a player that might be invited to shoot freely.

"Getting back to the principles of the defense and our press," will be a key for WVU, according to Tarik Phillip, commenting on West Virginia's focus in practice this week. "We need to go in there and play with a lot of energy."

UMKC will also go deep into its bench, perhaps negating, or at least limiting, WVU's advantage in that regard. Ten Roos average at least nine minutes per game, and with two more at seven and six, respectively, the scorer's table figures to be a busy location at the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. Of course, the question remains as to how well UMKC's backups can match those of WVU's in terms of play, but the usual fatigue effect of West Virginia's waves of subs might not be quite as noticeable in this contest.

PRESS POINTS

Former WVU assistant coach Matt Brown was the head coach at UMKC from 2007-13. A member of John Beilein's staff at both WVU and Richmond, Brown was hired as the head basketball coach at Wentworth College in Missouri in July, 2016. The Red Dragons are currently 6-6.

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UMKC will be the 171st different team to play a game against WVU in the Coliseum in a countable game (excludes exhibition contests). WVU is 134-36 against teams making their first appearance in the Coliseum.

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Much of the focus on this game is on Bob Huggins' attempt to get his 800th win – a characterization of the contest that he would certainly treat with disdain. However, milestone numbers are the accepted time for recounting careers to date and trying for some perspective. We've done that with a couple of stories lead deserves to be nominated and elected posthaste.

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Odd stat of the moment: Jevon Carter, with five blocks, has two more than Elijah Macon, who has three.


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