Friday night's contest couldn't have had a more fitting start. Just a few minutes after West Virginia honored the five seniors on its roster, walk-on James Long took advantage of his first career start and buried a three-pointer on the Mountaineers' first possession of the game. Shortly afterwards Nathan Adrian got in on the act and scored six straight points that helped propel West Virginia to an early 9-3 lead.
That lead wouldn't hold for long though, as Iowa State quickly found its rhythm from behind the arc. The Cyclones made four of their first five three-pointers and quickly took a 12-11 lead, their first of the game, after going on a 9-2 run. After the initial bursts, both teams battled back and forth like to heavyweights in the ring.
For the Cyclones, it was Naz Mitrou-Long and Monte Morris who delivered hay-makers to the Mountaineers. The duo combined for 27 points in the first half on 7-10 shooting from behind the arc. On the other end of the court it was Daxter Miles who counter-punched for the Mountaineers. Miles pulled down multiple offensive rebounds and finally looked comfortable shooting the ball as he cruised to 14 first half points. The result was a highly competitive first half that saw several ties in lead changes en route to a 43-42 West Virginia lead at the half.
Miles picked up right where he left off to start the second half; the junior guard scored the first five points of a 7-0 run that gave West Virginia a 50-42 lead. West Virginia held the advantage for the next several minutes but the Cyclones used a lift from Deonte Burton to stick around and they eventually cut the Mountaineer lead to 53-51, but that was as close as Iowa State would come the rest of the night.
Two thunderous Sagaba Konate slams and a giant 'saga-block' highlighted a 12-0 Mountaineer run that almost brought down the house. Making matters more complicated for the Cyclones, Iowa State head man Steve Prohm received a technical foul in the stretch. Although Lamont West missed the two ensuing free throws the damage was already done as the Mountaineers opened up a 65-51 advantage with nine minutes to play.
West Virginia controlled the contest the rest of the way and never let the lead fall under double digits. At one point the Mountaineers pushed the score to 81-64 but conservative play for the final few minutes enabled the Cyclones to make the game a little bit closer.
While Daxter Miles' season-high tying 22 points will be remembered by many, it was the Mountaineers' 48-29 advantage on the glass that ultimately decided this one. With Esa Ahmad obviously hampered by his back injury and the Mountaineers' coming off of a poor rebounding performance against Baylor, the Mountaineer guards stepped it up on the boards and the trio of Jevon Carter, Miles and Tarik Phillip combining for 23 rebounds. According to Miles, the activity of the guards on the glass was a point of emphasis all week.
"It's very important," said Miles in respect to the guard's rebounding efforts "Coach put an emphasis on rebounds because we had been doing a bad job on rebounding. We just tried to focus in on that."
Nathan Adrian, who finished his senior night with 16 points and seven boards, seemed to echo that sentiment.
"There was absolutely (an emphasis on rebounding)," admitted Adrian. "We got our butts whooped (against Baylor) so we needed to come out and rebound the ball well and I think we did that tonight."
In addition to Adrian and Miles, Tarik Phillip shined with an excellent all around game, accumulating seven points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists. It's safe to say that if West Virginia can get this kind of production from its guards it should be in good shape entering the postseason.
With the win, the Mountaineers finished the regular season with a record of 24-7 and locked in a No.2 seed in the Big 12 tournament. West Virginia will be back in action next Thursday night.