If anyone knows the New Jersey Institute of Technology basketball team, it’s Morgantown native and Drexel coach Zach Spiker.
See, while WVU is set to host NJIT at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Coliseum, Spiker’s Dragons — which pulled a stunning upset over Houston earlier this season — lost to the Highlanders this past Saturday 65-53 in Newark, New Jersey.
And although West Virginia will be heavily favored against NJIT, Spiker said the Highlanders’ style might just provide lessons for the No. 19 Mountaineers.
“Princeton doesn’t even have the Princeton offense anymore, but [NJIT] does,” Spiker said on Wednesday. “This is a Princeton-style offense that’s methodical.”
WVU is coming off its biggest win of the season, an 83-79 decision over Missouri to capture the AdvoCare Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. That put the Mountaineers at No. 18 in Wednesday’s Rating Percentage Index. It also was the sixth straight victory after a confidence-rocking 88-65 loss to Texas A&M to start the season.
Against Missouri, guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles led the team back from a 16-point deficit. Carter is now averaging 18.1 points and 4 rebounds and has 31 steals and 38 assists on the season. Miles is averaging 15.9 points, while James “Beetle” Bolden (11.6), Sagaba Konate (10.3) and Lamont West (10.1) are also averaging double figures in scoring.
In NJIT, West Virginia is meeting an Atlantic Sun Conference team picked to finish last among the eight league members, but sporting a 4-2 record. The Highlanders lost to Wagner 60-49 and Seton Hall, which is ranked No. 24 in the USA Today coaches’ poll, 82-53. Yet they have wins over Lafayette and Drexel, among others.
“The challenge is [the Highlanders] will have long possessions,” said Spiker, who served as an administrative assistant at WVU for former coach John Beilein. “They’re going to make you guard multiple actions – and they have no problem getting deep in the [shot] clock.
“When the ball gets to the top of the key and sticks with their big man, they’ll try to run guys to the rim and get you on a back door cut, catch you sleeping.”
NJIT is coached by Brian Kennedy, nephew of former Florida State and DePaul coach Pat Kennedy. The family runs the “Hoop Group” summer camp circuit.
“A very good coach,” Spiker said. “They have an offense that’s unique and you have to be ready to guard it. That’ll be the challenge.”
Junior forward Abdul Lewis and sophomore swing man Anthony Tarke were preseason all-ASUN picks. In the team’s last win, 73-69 over LIU Brooklyn, Lewis had 23 points and guard Diandre Wilson had 16.
Spiker said his team struggled with injuries against NJIT. (“We’re down to about seven-and-a-half healthy bodies,” he said.) But he reiterated the Highlanders will provide challenges for West Virginia.
“There will be a pretty large athletic differential between NJIT and WVU,” said the coach. “But [the Highlanders will] try to use space on the floor and back cut. West Virginia is a pressure team, so it could be a big win, but it could also end up giving up a handful of back door layups and cuts.”
The game will be aired on AT&T SportsNet, formerly Root. The Mountaineers’ next game will be Tuesday at home against Virginia.