BROOKLYN, N.Y.–The trend of the underdogs knocking off the top teams continued on Friday night.
Hours after Michigan State and California lost, third-seeded West Virginia University was defeated 70-56 by Stephen F. Austin in the second round of the East Region at the Barclays Center.
Thomas Walkup scored 33 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the 14th-seeded Lumberjacks (28-5). Clide Geffrard added 14 points.
Stephen F. Austin beat WVU at its own game, forcing 22 turnovers that led to 29 points for the Lumberjacks.
Stephen F. Austin had 16 steals and the Mountaineers had just seven turnovers and five steals. Coming into the game, the Lumberjacks ranked No.1 in defensive turnover percentage.
WVU turned the ball over on six straight possessions in the first half, which led to a drought over 10 minutes long spanning the two halves.
“We can’t pass,” Mountaineers’ head coach Bob Huggins said. “But we haven’t been able to pass all year. We’ve start the game and we have guys pinned and we throw it arms high. We had a guy open on an out-of-bounds play and we threw the ball right in their hands. I think — you know, I’m starting to think anyways that, when we spend a lot of time trying to teach guys how to pass, I think sometimes you better go recruit some guys that can pass because I’m not sure that it’s something — it’s kind of like shooting. If you’re a bad shooter, you can become a little better, but you’re never really going to be a good shooter. I think, if you’re a bad passer, you can get better, but you’re never going to be a good passer. It’s a skill thing.
“We’ve done it all year. This isn’t a new deal for us. It’s just we’ve made up for it in other ways that we didn’t make up for either. We didn’t make a shot today either. We didn’t make free throws. If you wrote down how to lose a game, you could probably check off just about everything that you wrote down, and that’s not taking anything away from Stephen F. Austin. I love Brad to death, and Brad’s done a great job with that bunch, and they played their butts off. But you could probably make a list and check it off and say, yeah, they did all those things.”
In the second half, every time WVU made a dent in Stephen F. Austin’s lead, the Lumberjacks would break the press and regain all the momentum.
“I just got to give my hats off to Stephen F. Austin,” Williams said. “They did what they were supposed to do. Their play showed how focused and prepared they were, and we just didn’t take it serious. That’s what happens in this tournament when you don’t take people serious. They just scouted well and soaked in what the coaching staff was giving.”
Demetrious Floyd sank a 3-pointer with 57 seconds left in the first half to give Stephen F. Austin a 31-28 edge at the break.
The Lumberjacks started the second half right where they left off. Stephen F. Walkup capped a 7-0 Stephen F. Austin run with a 3 and layup to give the Lumberjacks a 38-28 lead.
Williams made two free throws with 9:30 to go to pull WVU within 48-45 but that would be as close as the Mountaineers would get.
Walkup made an astonishing 19-of 20 from the charity stripe, 2-of-3 from beyond the arc and 6-of-15 from the field.
WVU was the third team from the Big 12 to lose in the tournament and the first No.3-seed.
The win was the biggest victory in school history for Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks will take on the winner of the Notre Dame/ Michigan game on Sunday afternoon.