INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – (March 19, 2021) — In the last stretch of games on Friday night, the No. 3 seed West Virginia Mountaineers defeated the No. 14 seed Morehead State Eagles, 84-67, in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.
As Friday turned into Saturday, WVU coach and future Hall of Famer Bob Huggins picked up career win No. 900. However, it’s not Huggins that’s the most excited about the milestone win, as his players gave Huggs a big group hug after the game.
“They enjoy it a lot more than I do. But I think that’s pretty neat,” Huggins said. “I think when they have something to look back on and share with whomever. Hopefully, it’s one of the positives things that happened in their athletic career, took them long enough though. Took us three games to finally get there.”
In the first half of the game, the Mountaineers (19-9, 11-6 Big 12) started hot, at one point making 3-threes in-a-row. That fire that WVU started, cooled out very quickly, as the team proceeded to miss their next five shots, allowing Morehead State (23-8, 17-3 OVC) to get back into the game. For the majority of the half, it was back-and-forth action between WVU and MSU. A late 5-0 run to end the half, gave West Virginia a seven-point lead heading into the half.
Morehead State was able to come out of the locker room, not losing a beat. The Eagles made it a one-point game and then the Mountaineers had the best run of the night. A three by in-state native Jalen Bridges was the start of an 11-0 run. Miles “Deuce” McBride scored six points in two seconds of play, scoring a layup, drawing a flagrant foul on MSU and hitting 4-free throws in the process.
McBride’s “six-point play” was the turning point of the game, helping the Mountaineers gain some breathing room. Despite the turn-a-round, Huggins thinks the team would’ve been alright either way.
“That was a big play but I think whether it ended up being six or three [points], I think the way we played from there on, was pretty good,” Huggins said.
Huggins has a point. From there, West Virginia was able to out-score Morehead State by 10 points in the second half, and closing out the game, winning by 17. Stress Virginia, thankfully, took a seat on the bench on Friday night.
McBride had the best game of his WVU career, finishing with a career-high of 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from the three-point line. The sophomore guard from Cincinnati, Ohio, also had six rebounds, six assists and three steals.
“Anytime you get in the ‘W’ column, you feel great but it’s a big-time thing to win a tournament game. It’s not easy to do,” McBride said following the win. “So, we can celebrate tonight but tomorrow comes and we got to start prepping for another game. We are 0-0 again, it’s time to become 1-0.”
Like McBride, Bridges had a great NCAA Tournament debut, finishing with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. All three of the three-point shots that Bridges hit on Friday night were all must-needed points. It seemed every shot Bridges made, was the answer to the call that Morehead State was making.
Heading into halftime, WVU forward Derek Culver had a rough start to the game, scoring two points on 0-of-4 shooting. Culver returned to his former self, scoring 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the second half.
The No. 3 seed Mountaineers will now look ahead to the Second Round matchup with the No. 11 seed Syracuse Orange. The former Big East foe defeated No. 6 seed San Diego State on Friday night.
The game is scheduled to tip-off on CBS at 5:15 on Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.
(Top Photo: Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)