Norse face uphill battle in showdown with Mountaineers

Dec 7, 2014 - 3:28 PM Highland Heights, KY ( - The 16th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers will try to get back on the winning track on Sunday night when they venture to The Bank of Kentucky Center for a non-conference bout with the Northern Kentucky Norse.

WVU got the season off to a flying start with wins in each of its first seven contests, with the highlight coming in a championship run in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with wins over George Mason (91-65), Boston College (70-66) and Connecticut (86-57). The Mountaineers suffered their first loss of the season on Thursday versus LSU in a heartbreaker, 74-73.

Since winning back-to-back games in mid-November, NKU has fallen back on its losing ways by dropping two of three to dip below .500 at 3-4. The Norse most recently lost at home to Tennessee-Martin on Wednesday, 71-56.

This marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs.

The Mountaineers appeared in great shape to move to 8-0 in their latest contest, as they held a 14-point second-half lead, but LSU chipped away at the deficit down the stretch and eventually connected on the game-winning layup with just eight seconds remaining to hand WVU the loss. The team's letdown came mostly due to its poor field goal shooting, as it made less than 35 percent of its attempts. It also lost the rebounding battle, 44-35. Juwan Staten poured in a game-high 17 points but did so on just 6-of-19 from the field. Daxter Miles Jr. and Tarik Phillip netted 13 and 12 points, respectively, while Jonathan Holton hauled in 11 rebounds.

On the season, WVU doesn't boast a very strong field goal percentage (.412), but it still puts up a lofty 81.0 ppg thanks to its fast pace and its astounding +12.5 turnover margin. Staten is not only the go-to scorer with 15.4 ppg, but he's also dished out 34 assists (4.3 pg) while committing just 12 turnovers. Holton (11.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Devin Williams (10.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.4 bpg) are mainstays in the paint, and five others net at least 5.0 ppg.

The Norse came out flat on their home floor in their most recent game, as they fell behind by 16 in the first half and could never recover from there. They shot only 42 percent from the field in the setback, including just 4-of-19 from 3-point range, while UTM made good on nearly 53 percent of its tries from the floor. Tayler Persons was one of the few bright spots for the squad with 15 points on 6-of-13 from the field. Tyler White came off the bench to score 12 and Chad Jackson added 10 points and six rebounds.

NKU has been inconsistent with its offense all season long. It shoots a solid 44.4 percent from the field but only 61.9 percent at the foul line, and those numbers combined with a -3.0 rebounding margin results in just 64.7 ppg. Its defense however, has been stellar (67.3 ppg). Persons is the only player in double figures with 11.3 ppg while adding 4.6 rpg and 3.1 apg to a well- rounded repertoire. Daniel Camps brings 8.3 ppg to the table.

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