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Mountaineers overcome slow start, get first victory of the year

West Virginia survived a late second half push, to win its season opener 60-53 against Oakland on Tuesday evening at the WVU Coliseum.

West Virginia (1-0) opened the game, with an Isaiah Cottrell layup plus a foul, just 38 seconds in to go up 3-0, but the Mountaineers did not make another shot until a Taz Sherman layup, over four minutes later.

Sloppy play and the inability to make shots was the story of the night for the Mountaineers, as West Virginia shot just 39.7% from the field, and 19% from three-point range, while turning the ball over 14 times.

Oakland (0-1) however, was able to find their shooting stroke early. Oakland scored 18 of their 23 first half points within the first 12 minutes of the half, and jumped out to a 18-13 lead. Gabe Osabuohien was able to help the Mountaineers keep pace in the first half, as he had four points to go along with six rebounds, as well as a block and a steal.

West Virginia did not take the lead in the first half until the 5:32 mark of the first half, when Sherman was able to make his first three-pointer of the year. The Mountaineers finished the half ahead 27-23, despite shooting 34% from the field and making just two three-pointers, while also turning the ball over seven times.

“I’d just say we’ve got to be better, Sherman said of West Virginia’s performance. “I don’t think we’re real good right now.”

In the second half, West Virginia got off to a strong start, shooting just under 45% in the second half, with Jalen Bridges and Sean McNeil helping to lead the way.

Bridges had all seven of his points in the first half, including a three-pointer to put West Virginia ahead 32-25, and an emphatic dunk after a steal to put the Mountaineers up 38-27.

After struggling to find open shots in the first half, McNeil scored eight of his 11 points in the second half.

The Mountaineers ability to rebound the ball, was a problem throughout the game. Even with Osabuohien, who led the team in rebounds with nine, Oakland was still able to grab 48 rebounds, compared to West Virginia’s 33.

“Definitely not what we want to do in the future,” Osabuohien said on West Virginia’s rebounding effort. “I don’t think an Oakland team should ever out rebound us in any situation. It’s definitely going to be an emphasis in the next few days.”

Head coach Bob Huggins echoed the same sentiment, saying his team is getting better at defense, but they did not rebound the ball well tonight.

“If you count, which we do rebounding apart of defense, we sucked,” Huggins said. “I think we’re getting better at staying in front of our guy. We just don’t rebound the ball, we just stand around and watch. And that’s got to be fixed in a hurry.”

The Mountaineers led by as many as 17 in the second half, but Oakland was able to cut the deficit to just six points. Oakland’s Micah Parrish was able to make a pair of free throws with 6:29 remaining in the second half, but West Virginia quickly responded, with the Mountaineers going up 10, after Kedrian Johnson made a transition dunk.

West Virginia will now look forward to hosting Pitt this Friday, Nov. 12 in the Backyard Brawl, at 8:30 p.m.

(Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography)

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