Morale is a littler higher among West Virginia's fan base than it was at this time just one week ago. After suffering two disappointing losses to Oklahoma and Kansas State, the Mountaineers bounced back and earned a pair of victories over No.2 Kansas and Texas A&M to earn their 16th and 17th wins of the year. The slate doesn't get any easier from here on out though, and in order to get win number 18 the Mountaineers must go on the road and defeat Iowa State, who is notoriously tough to beat at Hilton Coliseum.
In order to earn a victory in Ames for the second year in a row, West Virginia's first mission should be to make senior point guard Monte Morris uncomfortable. That's something that not a lot of teams have been able to do, as the senior leads the league in assists with 5.8 per game and boasts a 5.0 assist-to-turnover ratio, a number that ranks second in the country. After breaking down film and putting together a game plan, Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins spoke about how well Morris handles the ball.
"(Lack of turnovers) is the biggest thing," said Huggins. "His ball security is terrific and I don't know if we can get him to turn the ball over much either. Hopefully we can continue to put new people on him and wear him down a little bit."
While Morris may be the best distributor in the Big 12, West Virginia boasts the league's best defender in point guard Jevon Carter, who is averaging a league leading 3.0 steals per game. The match-up between Carter and Morris should be a terrific one and that could be the key to either team winning the contest. Morris isn't the same player he was last year though, and according to Huggins he is doing much more than just distributing the ball to teammates and taking care of the rock.
"He has shot the ball so much better this year," said Huggins. "His shooting has improved and he's making shots off of the bounce. He's just become so much more of a scoring entity for (Iowa State)."
Morris has picked up his scoring and is averaging 16.4 points per game, a statistic that is much needed after the departure of Georges Niang. Earning a victory on Tuesday night will be imperative for both teams as each holds a 5-3 record in the Big 12 conference - the winner of the match-up will be in sole possession of third place and have a much better chance to overtake Kansas and Baylor for the top spot and earn a league title.