MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – (February 2, 2021) — The No. 17-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers escaped with a road victory over Iowa State on Tuesday night by a final score, 76-72.
It was a roller coaster of a game for the Mountaineers (12-5, 5-3 Big 12) as they had big leads and then Iowa State (2-10, 0-7 Big 12) would storm back to make it a game.
“You just can’t (relax) with this bunch,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “We let down when we get ahead like that, we let down. We’ve done it repeatedly.”
WVU took an early lead but was washed away quickly by an ISU 11-0 run. For most of the first half, it was a close game, until West Virginia went on a 22-5 run to end the half. The Mountaineers were up 11 at the half.
In the early stages of the second half, it looked as WVU was going to cruise away with an easy victory. With 9:20 left, the Mountaineers were up by 15 points, but the Cyclones showed heart and went on a run of their own.
A Tyler Harris three and a Solomon Young layup made it a one-point game with three minutes to go. It seemed like the Mountaineers weren’t phased by the lead getting cut down, as they were able to get big defensive stops. Gabe Osabouhien made multiple big plays at the end of the game.
With just a few seconds left, Osabuohien forced an ISU turnover where the defender collied in with Osabuohien. Taz Sherman picked up the ball and was intentionally fouled.
Sherman hit both free-throws to make it a two-possession game, resulting in a needed win for the Mountaineers.
Once again the Mountaineers played down to their opponent, even when it looked like they were going to cruise to victory.
“We just have to close-out games. That’s been the story of the year. We only really closed out one game, and that’s Kansas State,” WVU guard Taz Sherman said after the win. “We really haven’t just put teams away and that’s one thing that we constantly keep saying and we’ve just gotta finish out games. Don’t let a 15-point lead get to our head, we want to increase that 15-point lead to 20, 25 and so on.”
“We’ve just gotta put teams away,” Sherman added.
Sherman led the Mountaineers in points, with 18 on 5-of-7 shooting. The senior shot 7-of-8 from the free-throw line, which was crucial for WVU as it seemed like Sherman was the only one that could hit them on Tuesday night.
Derek Culver had another double-double, finishing with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Culver sat out at the end of the game because Huggins wanted Osabuohien to guard out by the perimeter.
Sean McNeil shot the ball well against the Cyclones, shooting 3-of-7 from the three-point line. McNeil finished with 13 points.
After losing almost 20 pounds a couple of weeks ago, Emmitt Matthews showed that he still can contribute, scoring 13 points and bringing down seven rebounds.
In the second half, Matthews had an amazing dunk on ISU’s Young.
The Mountaineers won’t be able to play down to their next opponent, as they host No. 23 Kansas to the WVU Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. The game will start at 2 p.m. on CBS.