WVU rides defense to second NCAA win

West Virginia used its full-court pressure to make its way past Maryland with a 69-59 victory Sunday night in Columbus to send the Mountaineers back to the Sweet 16.

WVU forced 23 turnovers in the game - including 11 in the second half as it used an 8-0 run midway through the second half to extend a one-point lead to nine and never look back.

Things went back-and-forth for much of the game, with West Virginia gaining a little momentum early in the half with a stretch that included a Juwan Staten layup, back-to-back Gary Browne threes and a Devin Williams putback slam that set the table for the deciding run by sending the largely pro-WVU crowd at Nationwide Arena into a frenzy.

“We had a game plan. We said all we've got to do is get that first one," Staten said. "We didn't think teams would be able to prepare for our pressure. Early in the game they were making good decisions, they were breaking our press. They were looking good, but they were using a lot more energy than they had to use all year, so we knew that at some point they would break.”

The game started out much like a track meet, both teams moving up and down the floor quickly and trying to find fast opportunities in transition. During the opening 20 minutes of the game, the lead switched hands nine times, with Maryland holding the advantage for the majority of the half but never by more than four points. The Mountaineers were able to take the lead heading into the locker room in the final seconds of the half as Williams knocked down a pair of free throws to go into halftime up by a point.

“We had to change some things," said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins. "It's hard to change things without having some time to make them understand what you want them to do. We were a little more conservative when they did some things that we really weren't prepared for and then we went in and made some changes at halftime."

A big momentum swing came in the second half when Melo Trimble, the Maryland point guard who had been the Terrapins’ leader for much of the game and had 15 points and seven rebounds in the contest, went down with a head injury after being kicked in the head by one of his teammates during a West Virginia fast break. With the freshman all-Big Ten selection on the bench, the Mountaineers only outscored Maryland 16-13 during the stretch, but the Terps committed seven turnovers that led to several opportunities for the Mountaineers.

“We have one point guard in our program, and a really good one, in Melo,” said Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon. “He took a beating tonight. Would the outcome have been different (with him in the game)? We don’t know. But obviously we weren’t the same without him there.”

With Trimble out, West Virginia knew it would be able to take advantage of Maryland’s loss by amping up the pressure even more and forcing some more problems for the Terrapin ball handlers without the freshman in the game.

Williams led the way for WVU, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds to earn his ninth double-double of the year.

Browne had 14 points, while junior forward Jonathan Holton and freshman guard Daxter Miles both scored 12 each.

The Mountaineers will now head to Cleveland for the Sweet 16 where they will take on the No. 1 overall seed in this year's NCAA tournament, Kentucky.

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