Defense Again Rules as West Virginia Beats Bethune-Cookman 97-44 to Start 4-0, Set-up Vegas Trip.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia appears ready for Sin City, though this game was never much of a gamble.

The Mountaineers got a combined 25 points from Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles and forced 30 turnovers to beat Bethune-Cookman 97-44 Monday to set-up the possibility for a second straight in-season tournament title headed to the Last Vegas Invitational on Thanksgiving Day.

WVU’s press hounded the Wildcats, forcing 11 turnovers over the first nine minutes, and at one point had Bethune-Cookman on pace to reach nearly 50 for the game as WVU built a 22-5 lead. The Mountaineers coasted from there, leading by 23 points at the break as Bethune-Cookman never got closer than that in the second half. The 30 turnovers ties for the second-most in the last eight years.

Devin Williams added his fourth straight double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, completely dominating a smaller, less physical defense that wilted under his array of lay-ins and putbacks. Williams was so controlling that he secured the double-double with more than 16 minutes left, becoming the first West Virginia player to open the season with four consecutive double-doubles since Carey Bailey in 1968.

Carter and Paige? They essentially sealed the game just before the half, when the two combined for 12 points in a 16-2 run as the Mountaineers held Bethune-Cookman without a field goal over the final 5:31. Paige finished with 14, while Carter added 11 in a fourth straight blowout win.

The victory allowed West Virginia to continue riding the momentum, much as it did last season when it won its first five games to take the Puerto Rico Tip-off title on the way to a 14-1 start in what was eventually a Sweet 16 season.

In all, six Mountaineers reached double figures as the team rebounded from poor shooting early to hit 52.2 percent from the field for the game. Bethune-Cookman shot just 25 percent, and never seemed comfortable against the continual press and stifling defense of West Virginia. Elijah Macon finished with 13 points for WVU; the forward hit his first three shots in the game, and had made his last 12 field goals over a three-game stretch to lead the Big 12 in shooting percentage.

Bethune-Cookman’s leading scorer was actually a reserve, as Josue Salaam came off the bench to net 12. No other player reached double figures. WVU amassed a 50-28 edge in rebounding and an 54-12 edge in points in the paint to take the first-ever game between the schools while handing the Wildcats a second straight loss after their 2-0 start.

West Virginia led 45-22 at the break. The teams started slow and combined to miss 12 of their first 16 shots from the field, though WVU’s defense completely controlled Bethune-Cookman for a 10-3 lead at the 14-minute mark. That ballooned to 22-5 over the next four minutes as the Mountaineers got repeated easy buckets off turnovers, including multiple dunks and a steal from Miles right in front of WVU’s bucket.

The Wildcats (2-2) got as close as eight points multiple times over the final eight minutes of the first half, but could never threaten as the Mountaineers didn’t allow a field goal over the final 5:31 while closing on the decisive 16-2 run. WVU tips off the bracketed portion of the Vegas Invitational on Thanksgiving night at 5 p.m. eastern against Richmond. The winner faces the winner of Cal-San Diego State at 10:30 p.m. eastern on Friday.

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