West Virginia limited Bellarmine to only 25 second half points, as the Mountaineers defeated the Knights 74-55 on Tuesday evening at the WVU Coliseum.
So far this season West Virginia has won games by turning defense into offense. Coming into this game, the Mountaineers were forcing 20.7 turnovers per game, but tonight it was not solely the turnovers that helped the Mountaineers. West Virginia forced Bellarmine to turn the ball over 14 times, but held the Knights to 11.8% shooting from three-point range.
Head coach Bob Huggins said he recognized the effort his team is showing on the defensive end, and says that’s where he sees some of the biggest improvement over the last month of the regular season.
“I think defensively we’re getting better,” Huggins said. “That’s hard stuff to guard,” he added on Bellarmine’s offensive style.
The West Virginia offense took a while to get going, with Bellarmine leading 12-11 early in the contest. The Mountaineers went on a 8-0 run, extending the lead to 19-12, with fifth year senior guard Taz Sherman recording four points in the stretch.
West Virginia was able to get contributions from their whole roster in the first half. Fifth year senior forward Gabe Osabuohien came into the game and grabbed an offensive rebound, before finishing a layup and drawing the foul. Fifth year senior Pauly Paulicap also got in on the action. Paulicap blocked a shot on the defensive end before grabbing an offensive rebound and scored, pushing the West Virginia lead to 21-14.
The Mountaineers went into halftime leading 37-30, with Sherman scoring 11 first half points, and the Mountaineers limiting the Knights to 37.5% shooting.
In the second half it was more defensive dominance for West Virginia. The Mountaineers forced 10 second half turnovers, while offensively making 6-of-14 of their three-pointers, while pulling away, and outscoring Bellarmine by 12.
Huggins said in the second half the Mountaineers offensive flow got better compared to the first half.
“I thought our ball movement got better in the second half. We were trying to dribble it too much,” Huggins explained.
The Mountaineers turned the ball over five times in the second half, compared to seven times in the first half.
West Virginia used a 20-8, nine minute run in the second half to be able to take full control of the game. Sherman hit a jumpsuit to extend the Mountaineers lead to 45-31. Sherman and McNeil then combined for seven points over that stretch, including a McNeil three-pointer to eventually extend the lead to 65-39.
West Virginia relied heavily on their two senior guards Sherman and McNeil. The pair combined to score 32 points on the evening, and the pair made 4-of-9 of their three-point attempts on the evening.
The Mountaineers will now play their 3rd game of their five-game homestead on Saturday, as the Mountaineers welcome Radford at 4 p.m.
Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography