MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia gets a short break from its rigorous Big 12 schedule on Saturday when it squares off in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. That won’t be any sort of vacation, however, as the Mountaineers will host No. 15 Auburn, one of the top teams in the SEC.
Before that clash, WVU coach Bob Huggins and Auburn legend Charles Barkley will sit down with one another at the Bob Huggins Fish Fry in Morgantown, which is expected to raise over $2 million for the Norma Mae Huggins Foundation. Mere hours later, they will be on opposite ends of the competitive table as the Mountaineers square off against the Tigers for the fifth time in history.
Even though WVU hasn’t faced Auburn since Bruce Pearl has led the program, the Mountaineers have some familiarity with forward Johni Broome. In the 2021 NCAA Tournament, Broome faced WVU as a part of Morehead State and notched 10 points and nine rebounds in the Mountaineers’ 84-67 first-round victory.
“They probably got the best big out of the portal,” Huggins said. “He’s good, we struggled with him. [Former WVU forward] Derek [Culver], at the end, he did a really good job on him, but at Morehead, he was really good.”
Auburn sits two games behind arch-rival Alabama in the SEC standings. Huggins attributes much of that success to the Tigers’ athletic ability.
In order to stand up to that talent, the coach said his team has to play at a high level.
“They need to be real good tomorrow,” Huggins said.
WVU is finding its footing after a rough start to Big 12 play. The Mountaineers have won two out of their last three games and enter the Big 12/SEC Challenge on the heels of their first road conference win since March 4, 2021, when WVU topped Texas Tech by a 15-point margin in Lubbock.
That victory was earned through the Mountaineers’ depth as the bench combined for 50 of WVU’s 76 points. Joe Toussaint led the game with 22 points, but the sophomore duo of Seth Wilson and James Okonkwo stole the show with a pair of breakout performances.
“Seth, without a question, has earned playing time, but that’s just not the last game. He’s played well in prior games,” Huggins said. “I’ve been trying to get James to step up a little more. James is such a good guy that he kind of steps back and lets other people take some minutes that probably he deserves….He’s probably our most talented [forward] when it comes to just overall athletic talent.”
WVU will tip the game licking its wounds after the previous difficult stretch. Huggins did not provide a status update on starting point guard Kedrian Johnson, who he described as “pretty banged up,” while forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. deals with an ankle injury.
Tip-off is set for noon ET on ESPN. Before the game starts, however, be sure to get geared up with a live edition of Mountaineer GameDay, airing on affiliated Nexstar stations (check your local listings).