West Virginia had been the aggressor in many of its games early into the season, however on Friday afternoon that wasn't the case. Northern Kentucky, who entered the contest on a six game winning streak, started the game on a 9-2 run and jumped out to an early 12-6 lead in front of a somewhat surprised coliseum crowd. After some reshuffling in the Mountaineer line-up West Virginia was able to put together an 11-3 run that was sparked by senior Tarik Phillip and battle its way back to a 17-15 lead, but the Norse weren't going away lightly.
Northern Kentucky traded several baskets with the Mountaineers and routinely broke the West Virginia press, which forced 20 and 21 turnovers in the first halves of its last two contests, with ease and took advantage of some cold three point and free throw shooting by the Mountaineers. But despite shooting just 1-9 from behind the arc and forcing only 12 turnovers (a number significantly less than other first half totals this year) West Virginia took a 36-29 lead into the half.
The Mountaineers continued to build on its momentum early in the second half, going on a 12-2 run, which was part of a 17-2 stretch that dated back to the final minutes of the first half. The aggressive play of Nathan Adrian helped spur that run and put the Mountaineers up 48-31. Adrian wasn't the only standout in the second half though, for periods it seemed like Teyvon Myers carried the team on his shoulders as the senior scored eight of his 13 total points in a short stretch in the middle of the second half.
The Mountaineers and the Norse battled evenly for several more minutes until West Virginia went on a 13-2 run late in the second half that extended the lead to 82-55 and effectively ended the game as West Virginia coasted to a 92-61 victory. Tarik Phillip and Teyvon Myers led the Mountaineers with 16 and 13 points respectively.
After the game, Adrian who scored nine points and registered eight rebounds discussed the difference between the two halves.
"We were just playing smarter (in the second half)," Adrian said. "We weren't going where we needed to be so we made some adjustments in the second half."
Adrian will need to continue to be a force on the boards as Big 12 play rolls around. West Virginia was out-rebounded 39-34, marking the second consecutive game that the team has found itself on the wrong end of the rebounding total. Brandon Watkins, who got his second start of the season, discussed what the Mountaineers need to do better on the glass as Big 12 play begins.
"It's more ball watching than boxing out," Watkins said. "I have been guilty of just watching the ball when it comes off the rim and it takes a bad bounce right to the other team. We just have to do a better job of boxing out, sometimes we're confused and we all box out the same guy sometimes. We just have to get better at that and both the bigs and the guards have to play their part."
On the injury front Elijah Macon sustained what was referred to as a "tweaked knee" after the game but head coach Bob Huggins and guard Tarik Phillip alluded that Macon should be fine going forward. With Friday's win, West Virginia advances to 11-1 as they prepare to take on Oklahoma State in Stillwater next week.