In front of an expectedly quiet crowd with students away for Thanksgiving break, West Virginia looked sluggish in the early going of its third game of the season, but got into a groove late in the first half to put away Stetson’s thoughts of an upset and secure a 3-0 start to the season.
The Mountaineers were ice cold on the offensive end early on, making just five of their first 15 shots and turning the ball over four times in the first five minutes of the game.
Stetson took advantage of West Virginia’s complacency, building a lead as big as 23-15 and putting a bit of a scare into the Coliseum crowd.
That fear would be eased as the Mountaineers ripped off an extended dominating run of play, outscoring the Hatters 36-12 in the final 10 minutes of the first half to turn an eight-point deficit into a 16-point lead heading to the locker room.
Both teams found themselves in foul trouble in the first half, as both reached the double bonus with 10 fouls before even reaching the 10-minute mark. Stetson lost one of its big men, 6-foot-9 center/forward combo freshman Drew Romich, when he fouled out with just under five minutes to play in the half. Romich, who was matched up against WVU’s post men, logged just eight minutes before he was disqualified.
Junior forward Devin Williams kept the offense on schedule when seemingly everyone else was still shaking out the cobwebs, scoring 16 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field in the opening frame. Williams was a menace in the post, grabbing seven rebounds and earning nine free throw attempts, eight of which he converted, in his 14 first half minutes.
Williams has now registered double-doubles in all three games to start this season. He is averaging 20.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game thus far. This was the 20th double-double of Williams’ career.
Fellow big man, sophomore forward Elijah Macon, was the second biggest contributor during the offense’s early stagnant period. The Columbus, Ohio, native went 3-for-3 from the field in the first half, scoring seven points and tallying an assist, two rebounds and two blocks in just eight minutes of action.
Macon’s second half effort put a bow on what was statistically the best game of his young career so far. He set career highs in points with 18, tied a career high in rebounds with seven, and finished a perfect 8-for-8 from the floor, all in 18 minutes played.
Macon wasn’t the only one setting career highs on the night. Junior guard Tarik Phillip tallied a career-best 10 assists on the night, while turning the ball over just once. He went just 1-for-5 from the floor, but did a good job creating looks for teammates. He also came away with a team-high four steals on the night.
Tonight marked the second time in three games West Virginia has gone over the 100-point threshold. It is the first time that the Mountaineers have scored 100 points in in two of three games to start the year since Nov. 1997, a year that saw the team reach the Sweet Sixteen.
West Virginia will continue play in the Las Vegas Invitational when it takes on Bethune-Cookman at the Coliseum Monday night. The team will then head out to Las Vegas where it will meet Richmond Thanksgiving night, and either San Diego State or California Friday.