Despite a couple of LSU runs, West Virginia manged to avoid the long scoreless stretches that have plagued them in games against talented teams. WVU had a 22-7 run in the opening half, and answered an 11-2 LSU second half run with an 11-0 sprint of their own to move out to a 77-62 lead and ice the game.
"I'm so proud of the kids," head coach John Beilein said afterward. "We were fortunate. There were some things they did on defense that bothered us in the first half, but we made them probe a little bit on defense and that kept the pace down. We wanted to keep them under 70 points. If you can make some shots, you can keep them out of transition where they are dangerous."
The team nature of the win wasn't just exhibited in the scoring column. At different junctures, it seemed like a different Mountaineer was poised and waiting to make a big play.
Two examples in the second half stood out. With the shot clock winding down on one WVU possession, J.D. Collins drove the baseline and appeared to have nowhere to go with the ball, but at the last second flipped a reverse layup in that gave the Mountaineers a 14-point lead. A few moments later, Joe Herber, who did not have his best game, answered the call in the clutch by first driving and drawing a foul, which led to two free throws. He followed that effort with two more drives and pull-up jumpers that salted the game away.
"This is a true team right now," Beilein said, "and we have to keep it up."
West Virginia battled LSU evenly for the first ten minutes of the opening half, and trailed the Tigers by just three points at 17-14. Over the next five minutes, WVU went on a 22-7 run to push out to a 12-point lead, their largest of the half. LSU, aided by a double pump clutch prayer of a three-pointer with no time left on the shot clock, cut the margin to 46-40 at the half.
Lest observers think that WVU simply bombed away from the outside to record the upset, think again. WVU made just two more three-pointers than LSU (11-9), and actually won the game in the paint. Despite a rebounding advantage for the Tigers, West Virginia outscored the taller hosts 32-20 in the lane on the strength of a variety of moves and methods. Whether it was a Tyrone Sally drive, a Joe Herber runner or a Kevin Pittsnogle short jumper, the Mountaineers dominated LSU on the offensive end.
"We knew against this team they were going to get rebounds," Beilein said. "You just can't outrebound the big fellow (Glen Davis). But we dug out just enough to go run in transition and get a few going the other way."
WVU's 84 points did indeed include more than a few transition baskets, which provided enough of a contrast to WVU's deliberate half-court sets to keep LSU on its heels. Despite one second half run that cut the West Virginia lead to four points at 66-62, the Mountaineers remained calm, excuted their game plan, and came away with a huge win.
WVU won the game despite a hobbled Mike Gansey and the lengthy absence of D'or Fischer. Gansey remains troubled by a serious quadricep injury, but played his usuall all aournd game with 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal Fischer sat out 12 minutes in the middle of the second half, apparently after getting hit in the face on a rebound attempt.
Both players will likely enjoy the week-long break before WVU's next game against Radford next Saturday at the WVU Coliseum. Game time is 7:00 p.m.