West Virginia committed 28 fouls and put Richmond in the double bonus early in both halves, but managed to weather the tightly called game to get the win. The three-man crew of Tim Kelly, Louis Andrakaos and Larry Scriotto were strict constructionists in terms of the rule book, and their presence had a huge impact on what figured to be a more free flowing game. With both teams coming in averaging more than 90 points per outing, expectations were for more offensive action, but that was all chopped to pieces by the tight calls on both ends (and the middle) of the floor.
The fouls led to a parade to the free throw line, and it was there that WVU got an advantage . The Spiders were uncharacteristically clanky from the line, as they missed 14 of their 35 attempts. WVU was 23-32, and made 10 of its last 11 attempts from the line to keep the pesky Richmonders at bay. In all, 52 fouls were called in the contest. Nathan Adrian fouled out, and three others -- Jonathan Holton, Daxter Miles and Jaysean Paige -- had four each. Richmond lost just one player, T.J. Cline, to fouls.
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Some of West Virginia's foul trouble, though, was self-inflicted. the Mountaineers piled up a number of fouls early in the first half by putting both hands on opponents or swiping and hacking at the ball when players drove past them -- errors they didn't commit in the first four contests. That led to some unusual lineups on the floor for stretches of the game, and certainly contributed to some of the halfcourt offense woes that WVU suffered (more on that in a moment). Hopefully this game was just a combination of those mistakes and tight whistleblowing, but if it signals a trend for the future then it will cost some games down the road.
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It's often tempting to ascribe better talent to a foe that plays your team close, but in this case it was valid. Richmond passes the ball well, only lost its composure for a couple of short stretches when WVU's press worked to maximum effect, and responded to just about every Mountaineer run. The chink in the Spiders' armor was poor shooting across the board, as they hit just two of 15 from 3-point range and shot just 39% from the field after topping the 50% mark in all of their games coming in.
WVU had something to do with that as well, as they contested most of those and had as a focus running the Spiders off the 3-point line. Richmond battled WVU well in areas where the Mountaineers usually excel, as they grabbed two more offensive boards and outrebounded WVU 36-31.
Richmond's match-up zone was also a sticky wicket for the Mountaineer halfcourt offense, which often broke down. Guards stood in place and dribbled, perimeter players launced 3-point shots out of rhythm, and in all the effect wasn't good. West Virginia's poor perimeter shooting also contributed (2-13 from three), but some of those, as noted, were simply poor choices. West Virginia's guards were 8-29 from the field in the game.
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Devin Williams was again the best player on the floor, and his totals of 23 points and 12 rebounds are even more impressive when notice is taken that he compiled them in 25 minutes.
"Devin was absolutely terrific," head coach Bob Huggins said afterward. "He got the technical and I told him you cant do that becasue I can't have you in foul trouble, but I don't blame [him for it]. Whatever you are going to call, be consistent with it. It's going to take a while until everybody figures out what is supposed to happen."
Williams reacted after being hacked on a stickback, and had a couple of words for an official under the hoop before drawing the T. That was one of the few mistakes he made in the game, however. He was 9-11 from the field and suffered just one turnover despite more than a couple of uncalled hacks and bumps in the post.
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Huggins on getting the win on Thanksgiving: "If we'd have lost I probably would have punched the turkey."
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WVU will face the winner of the San Diego State - California game at 10:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 27. The game will again be televised by FoxSports1.