WVU, Iowa State both have unique keys to victory in crucial Big 12 matchup

Feb. 7—MORGANTOWN — If it was a wrestling match, then West Virginia would be in great shape.

If it was a track meet, then Iowa State would be looking pretty good.

Neither are the case, as WVU will try to fend off No. 11 Iowa State inside the Coliseum on a basketball court at 7 p.m. Wednesday, in a classic matchup of speed against size.

WVU STATS Not that the Mountaineers (14-9, 3-7 Big 12) are any sort of Goliath on the court, but their physical discrepancies between the smaller Cyclones (16-6, 7-3) are noticeable.

Standing 6-foot-10, Iowa State center Osun Osunniyi is fifth in the Big 12 in blocked shots, but he's also just shy of 70 pounds lighter than WVU center Jimmy Bell Jr.

The rest of the Cyclones' starting lineup are guards, none listed any bigger than 6-4 and 207 pounds.

Outside of the sizable Bell, WVU will also throw taller forwards Tre Mitchell and Emmitt Matthews Jr. at Iowa State.

So, if it becomes an over-the-top-rope battle royale, well, the Mountaineers like their chances.

"I feel like we can definitely be a problem for them with our bigger lineup, " WVU guard Joe Toussaint said. "I think we're a matchup nightmare for them."

There is a flip side to this story.

"They probably think they're a nightmare matchup for us, because they're all guards, " Toussaint continued. "They probably think they can out-quick us."

Make no mistake, Iowa State has yet to back down against bigger lineups this season, a major reason the Cyclones first burst into the national rankings back in November with a win against then-No. 1 North Carolina, and then backed that up with victories against Baylor, Texas, Kansas State and Kansas.

The Cyclones are the runaway leaders in the Big 12 in steals and are tops in the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 61 points per game.

"They don't put themselves in bad positions in transition, " WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. "They're a really good transition defensive team, and so everybody has to play against their set defense."

That set defense has caught the eyes of WVU players.

"When you watch (Iowa State), you can tell the difference between that team and everyone else in the Big 12 is they don't take plays off, " Toussaint said. "Literally, none. There was one time (Tamin) Lipsey got the ball taken from him ; the whole team just ran back and stopped the other team from scoring. That's the effort plays that they make."

That's the type of intensity and effort, Toussaint said, the Mountaineers will have to match on Wednesday.

As far as momentum, both teams have it. Iowa State is coming off a 15-point victory against Kansas, while the Mountaineers had their best Big 12 performance of the season in a 32-point win against Oklahoma.

WVU guard Erik Stevenson scored a career-high 34 points in that game, but the Mountaineers are focused more on what they can accomplish on the defensive end.

"Defensively is where our mind is, " Toussaint said. "Obviously you have to score the ball, but defensively is where we have to pick it up. We've let a lot of teams off the hook with not showing enough effort."

TWEET @bigjax3211 No. 11 IOWA STATE at WVU WHEN: 7 p.m., Wednesday WHERE: WVU Coliseum TV: ESPN2 (Comcast 36, HD 851 ; DirecTV 209 ; DISH 143)

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