West Virginia trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half, but was able to force 10 second half turnovers, beating Clemson 66-59 in the third place game of the Charleston Classic.
The Mountaineers were down early, as Clemson jumped out to a 10-2 lead within the first 2:45 of the first half. Clemson’s Nick Honor scored five of his 10 points in this run, and left West Virginia scrambling.
After being down 17-9, West Virginia stormed back, going on a 11-2 run, to take the lead 20-19. Taz Sherman helped spark the run, hitting a shot just inside the three-point arc, helping to jumpstart the West Virginia run. Sherman was then heard from again, hitting a three-pointer from the top of the key, after a hard fought offensive rebound from Malik Curry.
The Mountaineers and Tigers had themselves a back and forth first half from that point on.
After starting red hot from the field, Clemson was able to let West Virginia back in the game as they could not keep up the same pace of shotmaking like they were earlier in the game. Clemson shot 56.5% from the field, and made 42.9% of their three-pointers in the half. West Virginia led 35-34 at the break, as they shot a respectable 45.2% from the field in the half.
In the second half, the Mountaineers looked on their way to another loss. Clemson opened up a 10 point lead as they went on an 11-0 run with 14:00 left in the second half. West Virginia could not put a dent into the Clemson lead until later, and the Tigers still led 52-43, with 8:14 remaining.
From that point on, it was all West Virginia. The Mountaineers ratcheted up their defensive intensity, as well as Sean McNeil catching fire late, after not scoring at all in the first half. McNeil scored nine of West Virginia’s next 13 points, as the Mountaineers went on a 13-4 run, resulting in a tie game at 56-56.
West Virginia got the lead on two free throws from Kedrian Johnson, after he drove left from the top of the key and was met head on by a Clemson defender as he was driving in the lane. Johnson made both of his free throws, putting West Virginia ahead 58-56. On the next possession, the West Virginia defense did not allow Clemson to get a shot off, forcing a shot clock violation. On the way back down, Sherman got an offensive rebound, resulting in a left handed layup, to put West Virginia ahead 60-56, and sending the Mountaineer fans who made the trip down into a frenzy.
Over the last 5:50, the West Virginia defense smothered Clemson, not allowing them to score a field goal the rest of the game. The Mountaineers had 10 points off turnovers in the second half, and six second chance points, to help get the Mountaineers back into the game.
This was head coach Bob Huggins’ 904th all-time win, which put him in 4th place among Division I, men’s basketball coaching wins.
Huggins and his team will return to action on Friday, Nov. 26, at the WVU Coliseum, as West Virginia hosts Eastern Kentucky.
Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography