West Virginia is confident of one thing going into Friday night’s game: It will get off to a better start against Monmouth than it did against Missouri State.
West Virginia will go for its second straight win under interim head coach Josh Eilert when the Mountaineers host Monmouth in Morgantown, W.Va.
Both teams have been off since opening their seasons Monday night, when West Virginia overcame a cold first half to beat visiting Missouri State 67-59 and Monmouth fell to host George Mason 72-61.
West Virginia won Eilert’s debut despite shooting just 12.5 percent (4-of-32) in the first half. The Mountaineers actually raced out to a 15-4 lead in the first six minutes before missing their final 21 shots as Missouri State took a 30-24 lead into the locker room.
Seth Wilson snapped the drought by hitting a 3-pointer nine seconds into the second half for West Virginia, which drained its first six shots and never trailed over the final 17:17.
Quinn Slazinski had 18 points for West Virginia while Jesse Edwards (13 points, 13 rebounds) posted a double-double and Wilson finished with 11 points.
“Got in the locker room (at halftime) and everything was positive,” Wilson said. “We just tried to lift each other. From the first guy to the last guy, we just talked each other up — it’s going to change and that was our mindset coming out.”
Monmouth, which was picked to finish 11th in the 14-team Coastal Athletic Association, hopes a competitive defeat to the Atlantic 10’s George Mason is a harbinger of a better season than last year, when the Hawks lost 20 of their first 21 games on their way to a 7-26 finish.
Monmouth newcomers accounted for 30 points on Monday, when graduate student Xander Rice — the son of head coach King Rice — scored a game-high 21 points in his debut for the Hawks. Xander Rice played the previous four years at Bucknell.
“Last year hurt me,” King Rice, who is in his 13th season as head coach, told the Asbury Park Press in September. “I made some choices and my team wasn’t as strong as I’ve always made and everybody thought it was funny, took advantage of us. And now we’ve got a group that can do it back to you.”
This is the third meeting between West Virginia and Monmouth, all of which have happened in the last nine years. The Mountaineers earned a 64-54 win at home on Nov. 14, 2014, before beating the Hawks 71-53 at the Myrtle Beach Invitational on Nov. 15, 2018.
–Field Level Media