WVU avoids letdown after big win over UConn

It's something that seems to happen to teams all the time.

A team, fresh off an emotional victory against a ranked team, comes out flat in its next game and either struggles to pick up a victory or possibly even suffers a setback and loses to an inferior opponent.

That's something that West Virginia has been pretty accustomed to doing the last few season - losing six of the eight games following a win over a top-25 opponent since the start of the 2010-11 season. But there's something different about this WVU team, and the No. 21 Mountaineers showed that Wednesday night as it took care of business and ran VMI out of the gym at the Charleston Civic Center with a 103-72 victory.

Any thought of a potential hangover after beating then-No. 17 UConn last week in the finals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off went away pretty quickly as the Mountaineers were able to do what the wanted for the majority of the game.

"That was something we were really trying to fight against," said senior point guard Juwan Staten. "It's easy when you win like that and you get ranked and then you come in here against a lesser opponent to kind of play down to the competition. But Coach stayed in our heads and our veterans stayed on everybody and we had to pick this up."

Of course, Staten admitted it didn't always look that way Wednesday. VMI was able to come out early and do some things to make West Virginia uncomfortable for the first 10 minutes of the game. After falling behind early, the Keydets came storming back with an early rally to get back in the game.

VMI amped up the defensive pressure and forced West Virginia to commit three turnovers and go on a streak in which it made just one of 11 attempts from the field and held a 19-18 advantage as the teams went to their respective benches for the media timeout with less than 12 minutes to play in the half.

But then the Mountaineers did what they have been able to do so well throughout these early games this season and returned to the one thing they have been able to rely on the most: defense. WVU was swarming, it wouldn't let VMI take an uncontested dribble, let alone get a good shot off. The Mountaineers forced 19 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes of the game, converting those into 27 points and took an 18-point lead into the locker room at the half.

"That type of stuff, it doesn't start with your offense," said freshman guard Jevon Carter, who finished the game with 28 points and five steals. "It starts with your defense."

And if the Mountaineers ended the half looking sharp, they were even better as they came out on the floor for the start of the second half. West Virginia scored more than 30 points in the first eight minutes of the second half and were able to put it in cruise control after that.

"I always think it's the halftime speeches (that help propel WVU). I don't think we come into games lackadaisical. I just think we think so much during the beginning instead of just playing our game," said freshman Daxter Miles. "Then halftime comes and it always seems like we say we don't want to wake up too early to run sprints or anything, so we just go. You see us hit the floor, everybody's up on the bench. That's when you can tell."

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