After forcing 81 turnovers in its first three games of the season, one thing became abundantly clear about this West Virginia team, it is still going to run its full court press for 40 minutes and try to physically and mentally wear down opponents. But there were still some legitimate questions about whether or not the Mountaineers' pressure defense would still be as effective when they faced a team with a pulse. Well, after annihilating Illinois and forcing 24 turnovers, those questions can be laid to rest.
The Mountaineers and Illini played close for the first few minutes of Thursday's contest but it didn't take West Virginia long to go on a 16-2 run and start executing its pressure defense to perfection. The Illini was able to make a few minor runs in the first half but by the time intermission rolled around the Mountaineers had pretty much worn down and overwhelmed their opponent, taking a 48-29 lead into the break. Illinois's fatigue was evident when the Mountaineers opened up the second half on a 10-0 run, extending the lead to 29 points and pretty much putting the stamp on the victory before the first media timeout of the second half was even called.
The second half was reminiscent of a great defensive effort in football, in that the Illini just couldn't get the ball into West Virginia's territory and had trouble finishing with points when it did. A big reason why the press was so overwhelming today was the play of senior guard Jevon Carter, who entered the contest averaging three steals per game. Carter would double that number today as he finished with 10 points, six rebounds, six steals and five assists and had West Virginia not opted to play four freshmen and walk-on senor for the games final several minutes, Carter had an outside shot at registering a double-double or even a triple-double.
Head coach Bob Huggins decision to give his starters as much rest as possible before tomorrow's contest with Temple also caused the Mountaineers to just miss the 27 turnovers per game that they were forcing entering the contest, but to get 24 against a quality opponent with good talent is still impressive. Tomorrow's contest with Temple will be held tomorrow at 3:00. The two teams have one common opponent: New Hampshire, who defeated the Owls earlier in the season but lost to West Virginia 100-41 just days ago.