After a slow first half, West Virginia was able to find their groove in the second half, beating Kent State 63-50 at the WVU Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
Coming into this game there were two things on West Virginia (9-1) head coach Bob Huggins’ mind following an upset win of No. 15 UConn on Wednesday. Huggins wanted to see how new guys on his roster would respond after an emotional win, and he wanted his team to be better at the free throw line. Unfortunately for Huggins, early on it looked as though West Virginia did not receive their head coach’s message.
In the first half, West Virginia went 4-of-12 from the free throw line and turned the ball over nine times. For the second game in a row guards Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman were the only offense to be found. McNeil and Sherman combined for 22 points in the first half, with the remainder of the West Virginia roster accounting for only three points.
McNeil got West Virginia out to a 6-2 lead with a layup and three-pointer early in he game. With Kent State (5-4) leading 11-9, Sherman scored eight consecutive points for West Virginia, including a layup to tie things at 17-17.
West Virginia’s offense continued to sputter, as they went to the break only leading 25-22. West Virginia shot 30% from beyond the arc.
In the second half, West Virginia picked things up offensively, starting with Sherman who had 15 second half points, while finishing with a game high 27 on the afternoon.
Sherman had his fingerprints all over the beginning of the second half. Sherman hit a turnaround jumper to put West Virginia in front 27-25. Sherman then got a steal on the ensuing possession, before forward Jalen Bridges knocked down a three-pointer to put West Virginia ahead 30-25.
After Kent State cut West Virginia’s lead to one, Sherman hit another mid-range jumper, before making three free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt. West Virginia led 35-31, with forward Isaiah Cottrell hitting a three-pointer of his own as the shot clock expired, giving the Mountaineers a seven point lead.
A transition layup by Kent State cut their deficit to three with 11:47 remaining, but that would be the closest they would get for the rest of the game.
West Virginia went on a 14-0 run, highlighted by Kent State head coach being ejected after he was assessed two technical fouls with 7:54 left. McNeil made all four free throws, and then McNeil made a layup after Gabe Osabuohien grabbed two offensive rebounds, putting West Virginia in full control, leading 54-37.
McNeil hit a three-pointer from the right of the top of the key with 1:50 remaining, to put the Mountaineers ahead by 16. West Virginia closed out the victory, with Kedrian Johnson making a layup, putting West Virginia in front 63-50 and sealing the win.
West Virginia shot 50% from the field and 50% from three-point land in the second half as well as forcing six second half turnovers. The Mountaineers next will play their first true road game against UAB on Dec. 18.
Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography