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Late free throws propel WVU to a 65-59 victory over UAB

Free throws and defense late, help seal West Virginia’s first road win of the year, beating UAB 65-59 on Saturday evening.

So far this season, West Virginia ranks 344th in the country in free throw percentage. And today, despite turning the ball over 14 times, West Virginia made their free throws when it mattered most, propelling them to a win in their first road game of the year.

Coming into this game, West Virginia had been led offensively by guard Taz Sherman who came in averaging 21.8 points per game. Despite Sherman finishing with only two first half points and West Virginia turning the ball over 10 times in the period, the Mountaineers were able to hang on after the first 20 minutes of play.

UAB got off to a hot start, as they scored on their first three possessions, going up 6-4 early in the ballgame. Out of a timeout, UAB then went on a 8-0 run, highlighted by back-to-back three-pointers, putting the Blazers ahead 14-4. West Virginia responded with guard Malik Curry making a jump shot from just outside the lane, and then Gabe Osabuohien making a layup to cut the deficit to six.

The UAB defense was able to turn the Mountaineers over 10 times in the first half, including one of Sherman’s five turnovers, leading to a dunk in transition, putting UAB ahead 16-8. West Virginia forward Pauly Paulicap made a hook shot and then a layup, cutting the lead back down to four.

UAB had an 18-12 lead with 7:37 remaining in the first half, but the West Virginia defense turned up the pressure, allowing UAB to only score two points over the next four minutes. UAB led 21-20, before forward Dimon Carrigan dunked his second lob of the half from guard Kedrian Johnson, putting West Virginia in front 22-21.

Another Sherman turnover led to another UAB dunk, putting the Blazers ahead 25-22, with 2:16 remaining in the half. West Virginia closed the half missing two shots, and went into the break only down 29-26, despite the lack of scoring from Sherman and shooting 0-for-6 as a team from three-point range.

After scoring only two points in the first half, Sherman scored the first five points for West Virginia, but the rest of the Mountaineer offense went cold. UAB went on a 11-5 run to open the half, going ahead 42-31.

Sherman continued to have the hot hand for West Virginia, scoring four more points, to put West Virginia down seven. UAB was able to sustain their lead, as they led 49-40 after an emphatic dunk, followed by Sherman’s seventh turnover of the game.

West Virginia cut the UAB lead to one, at 54-53, after McNeil hit a fadeaway jumper off the glass. UAB missed a pair of free throws on the next possession, followed by McNeil making two free throws of his own, putting West Virginia ahead 55-54 with 2:36 remaining.

On UAB’s next possession, Paulicap blocked a shot, then the Mountaineers secured a rebound off a UAB miss. Sherman then connected on a deep three-pointer, putting West Virginia ahead 58-54 with 1:52 remaining.

The Blazers made 1-of-2 free throws, then it was Sherman who was fouled on West Virginia’s possession. Sherman made one of his two, giving West Virginia a 59-55 lead. The West Virginia defense was able to force a missed shot, followed by Johnson making two free throws after he was fouled.

With the Mountaineers leading 61-55, the Blazers cut the lead to four, with Sherman sinking a pair of free throws for West Virginia. Johnson made two more free throws with 14 seconds left, then UAB could not make a shot late, helping West Virginia hold on for the win.

West Virginia shot 44.2% from the field and went 2-of-13 from beyond the arc, and although West Virginia missed 10 free throws, the Mountaineers were still able to win. West Virginia forced 15 turnovers, and allowed UAB to only make four three-pointers on the night.

West Virginia closes out its non-conference portion of the schedule on Tuesday, Dec. 22, as West Virginia hosts Youngstown State in their final game before the beginning of conference play.

Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography

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