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WVU needs RaeQuan Battle to shake off slump against high-scoring BYU

Feb. 2—MORGANTOWN — Josh Eilert wasn't about to divulge the nature of the conversations he had with WVU guard RaeQuan Battle, but one could guess.

"He's had his troubles the last couple of games and he's been frustrated, " Eilert said.

Just 10 games remain in the regular season and Eilert's message is about maximizing the potential of the Mountaineers (8-13, 3-5 Big 12) now that they are playing with a complete roster.

WVU STATS While it was the newly-returned Jesse Edwards who took center stage earlier this week, as WVU took down Cincinnati, there is no maximum potential without Battle.

His athleticism and ability to make tough shots, in theory, opens up so many other doors to Eilert's offense.

Throw that in with Edwards' play down low, Kerr Kriisa running the offense and Quinn Slazinski being another shot maker and that's what Eilert has in mind in terms of full potential.

Just one hiccup, so far, and that's been the fact Battle has struggled.

After a federal court granted him eligibility for the season and a bout with the flu, Battle simply took off while Edwards was sidelined with a fractured wrist.

His first three games in a WVU uniform ranked him among the legends of the school.

That was then, as they say. More recently, Battle was ejected from one game after getting whistled for two technical fouls.

He's also getting himself into early foul trouble. That happened again against Cincinnati, but he bounced back to nail the game's clinching 3-pointer with 1:03 remaining.

"That was a huge shot and a credit to RaeQuan, " Eilert said.

It was but a glimpse of what a Battle-Edwards combination could look like, both of them being at their best at the same time.

"We all have slumps, " Battle said. "It feels good to have everybody have my back and they know I'll have theirs when times are down."

The one variable is WVU played the first nine games of the season with Edwards as the No. 1 option, as Battle waited to gain his eligibility.

WVU then spent the next nine games with Battle as the No. 1 option, after Edwards went down with his wrist injury.

Now you have two No. 1 guys on the floor at the same time for the first time.

"In a way, that could be a thing, but I don't think anyone on the team has a really big ego, " "We don't really get in each other's way too much when it comes to scoring.

"I really don't mind scoring five points in a game and then Rae or Kerr or (Slazinski) get 20. There might be a game we both want to go off, I don't know."

If there was ever a game for both Battle and Edwards to be at their best, it may be Saturday's matchup inside the Coliseum against No. 22 BYU (15-5, 3-4).

The Cougars are going to score, that much we know. BYU is second in the Big 12, averaging 84.4 points per game and have been held below 70 points just four times this season.

Those points mostly come from 3-point land. BYU averages 12 threes a game, by far the most in the Big 12 and No. 2 in the country.

BYU already has three players—Jaxson Robinson, Trevin Knell and Noah Waterman—with more than 100 3-point attempts.

WVU has none, so if this game develops into a shoot-out, WVU may need to be at maximum potential just to keep pace.

That includes getting Battle at full go.

"Some games he can be such an amazing player for you, " Eilert said of Battle. "Other games, if he forces the actions sometimes, it can hurt the team. By no means is he trying to hurt the team in any way. He's trying to figure out what that niche is that he can bring to the table."

(22) BYU at WVU WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday WHERE: WVU Coliseum TV: ESPN + (Online subscription needed)

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