The spotlight shines a little brighter on the University of Charleston and West Virginia State men’s basketball teams Sunday afternoon, and it won’t be just about the television cameras.
Those will be there. Sunday’s 4 p.m. “Kanawha River Rivalry” will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh. But TV or no, the stakes will be pretty high when the Golden Eagles and Yellow Jackets square off at the Walker Convocation Center in Institute.
The two teams will enter Sunday’s game among the top five in the always-competitive Mountain East Conference. The Golden Eagles (15-2, 9-2 MEC) are tied with West Liberty for the best conference record, though UC does have a one-win advantage overall. The Yellow Jackets (12-4, 7-4 MEC) are in a three-way tie in the standings, just under Charleston and the Hilltoppers, with Fairmont State and Glenville State.
For UC, it’s a chance to stay at the top of the heap. For WVSU, it’s a chance to climb a little closer to that peak.
The game will be a classic offense-versus-defense matchup. West Virginia State is second behind West Liberty in the MEC scoring 97.9 points per game. UC is in a familiar spot at No. 1 in the conference in scoring defense at 71.1 points allowed per game.
Charleston is no slouch at scoring either, fifth in the conference at 84.4 points per game, and the Golden Eagles are very efficient at it. UC leads the Mountain East in shooting 53.1 percent from the floor. State is third at 49.6 percent.
Much of the Yellow Jackets’ points are coming from the 1-2 punch of junior Glen Abram and freshman Anthony Pittman. Abram is sixth in the league averaging 17.8 points while Pittman is 15th at 16.1 points per game.
But Pittman’s gift isn’t so much his scoring as it is his versatility. Not only is the former Capital All-Stater 15th in scoring, he’s also fifth in rebounding (7.8 per game), second in blocks (1.6) and first in steals (2.4).
Drew Rackley leads UC with 16.4 points per game, shooting from 3-point range at a 44.4-percent clip. But the Golden Eagles have a very balanced scoring attack with Seth O’Neal (14.2 per game), Lamont McManus (14.2) and Devon Robinson (13.8).
Robinson is the league’s only double-digit rebounder, snaring 10.4 per game, and McManus and Robinson are the two most accurate shooters in the MEC. McManus is first at 66 percent and Robinson is second at 64.9 percent.
The State and UC women kick things off at 1 p.m. The Golden Eagles (13-4, 8-3 MEC) are tied for third in the league but could climb to a tie for second with a win and a Glenville State loss. The Yellow Jackets (7-10, 5-6 MEC) are struggling but a win would allow them to match both their overall and conference win totals from all of last season.