One day after rallying for a 15-point deficit to topple Northern Iowa, West Virginia looks to secure the Cancun Challenge title when the Mountaineers face Wichita State of the American Athletic Conference in the tournament finals Wednesday night. The game tips off at 8:30 p.m. and will air on CBS Sports Network. WVU is a one-point favorite.
While the Mountaineers (5-0) advanced to the championship game on the backs of a furious second-half comeback in the semi-finals, the Shockers (6-0) had no such trouble in their advancement to the Cancun finals.
Wichita State dominated South Carolina from start to finish in a 70-47 waxing of the Gamecocks. As he has all season, sophomore guard Erik Stevenson paced the Shockers in Tuesday night’s victory, tallying 19 points, eight boards and four assists. Stevenson leads Wichita State in scoring (12.2 points per game) and assists (3.7 assists per game).
Junior forward Trey Wade leads WSU’s front line with 11.8 ppg and a team-high 7.7 rebounds a contest.
West Virginia freshman Miles McBride had the best game of his brief career in the Cancun semi-finals, coming off the bench for a game-high 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting. McBride also led the Mountaineers with a pair of assists and two blocks.
But while WVU coach Bob Huggins certainly welcomed McBride’s breakout effort, he can’t be happy with another sub-par contribution from highly touted freshman Oscar Tshiewbe. As has been the case for more than half of his early career, Tshiewbe spent most of the Northern Iowa victory sidelined with foul trouble. He finished with just six points and two rebounds in a game where he played just 14 minutes and picked up four fouls.
Derek Culver helped picked up the slack created by Tshiewbe’s absence. While the sophomore forward struggled offensively with just three points and a 0-for-5 effort from the field, he dominated the glass. Culver pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds, including five on the offensive end.
West Virginia likely will need production from both Tshiewbe and Culver if the Mountaineers are to secure a Cancun Challenge title. Against Northern Iowa, the deeper Mountaineers squad wore done a thin Panthers team. Wichita State provides much more depth than UNI. While they might not have the depth and athleticism of WVU, the Shockers go 10 deep with players averaging at least 11 minutes a game. West Virginia likely won’t wear down Wichita State like it did Northern Iowa.