West Virginia Dominates On Both Ends, Rolls Catamounts 90-37

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - There was much to like in West Virginia's 90-37 win over Western Carolina. But as expected, head coach Bob Huggins found a handful of holes in the performance.

Most notably, Huggins said he would have liked WVU to commit fewer turnovers than the 13 with which it finished. The Mountaineers (7-1) committed nine in the first half, but were a bit better in securing the ball over the final 20 minutes. But the baker's dozen still stuck in the proverbial craw, as did the performance of a handful of freshmen, though that was primarily because it's difficult to truly run offense with five young players on the floor at the same time. That was the case for much of the final 10 minutes, as the Mountaineers, ahead 51-14 with 17 minutes to play, began to unload the bench.

"We turned it over nine times in the first half," Huggins said. "That's been my thing, is we can't steal it and then throw it right back to them. I think (the first group) was more conscious of taking care of the ball. They are trying to help those freshmen out, because they know there's going to come a time when we need them. I can't run anything with the five freshman, because invariably one of them will screw something up. We are really just out there passing it around, trying to get somebody to make a bad close out so we can penetrate and pitch it."

West Virginia finished with 34 forced turnovers, turning the miscues into 37 points. Shockingly, Western Carolina (3-6) never scored off any of the WVU turnovers, and it managed just 13 made shots. The Catamounts also had two scoring droughts of more than five minutes, including one of which that lasted 10:39 spanning both halves. The Mountaineers scored 21 points in the stretch, securing the win early and showcasing their smothering style again.

"It was hard for them because we don't let people run offense," Huggins said. "I think everybody gets to the point where they have seen other people turn it over and you don't want to turn it over. You want to take care of the ball. And the best way to take care of the ball is to throw it backwards, but it's hard to run an offense when you are constantly throwing the ball backwards."

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Huggins also said he liked West Virginia's defensive rotation, and the way the Mountaineers were able to cut off lanes to the bucket and force deep shots from WCU. Western finished 4-of-18 from three-point range and never passed the ball effectively, while West Virginia hit 49.2 percent from the floor and assisted on 24 of 30 field goals. Four Mountaineers reached double digits, led by Esa Ahmad's 14 points, along with eight rebounds. Jevon Carter added 13 points and Elijah Macon chipped in 11, while Tarik Phillip had five assists.

"I thought we did a pretty good job," said Huggins, now just two wins away from 800. "When we play the experienced guys, watching them rotate, they did OK. They get to the ball pretty quick and generally speaking they make the right rotation. We still aren't reading up quick enough. (In terms of scoring balance), there are going to be times when J.C. or Dax or Esa or somebody gets 20. I think we are harder to guard when you put more guys out there who can score."

WVU's bench managed 45 points to Western Carolina's 22 while the Mountaineers recorded 21 steals. The Mountaineers now have five nonconference games remaining - four before the start of Big 12 play. West Virginia plays host to VMI on Saturday at 2 p.m.

"Growing up I heard 'attitude' from my dad about every third word, and it just drove me insane because I got tired of hearing about it," Huggins said. "But it's amazing how attitude affects people's lives, people's play."


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