Trained

Offensive-minded West Virginia turned to its defense to advance to the semifinals of the Guardians Classic preseason tournament with a 61-41 home win over Wofford on Sunday.

The No. 14 Mountaineers – normally a perimeter-based team – scored just 19 first-half points on one of 10 three-point shooting. But a halftime switch from a base man defense to its trademark 1-3-1 turned a 24-19 deficit at the break into a 40-26 lead with 12:15 left.

"They did some tweaking at the half, and they got us," Wofford head coach Mike Young said. "I didn't think (the defense) would have as much teeth as it did."

Wofford (1-1) forced West Virginia to rely on Kevin Pittsnogle to remain in the game early. He responded, scoring 13 of West Virginia's first 17 points, 10 from inside, and finishing with a game-high 19 to claim MVP honors for the WVU-hosted Morgantown Regional.

"He is an impressive fellow," Young said. "He has great hands and really understand how this thing is supposed to be played."

One couldn't say the same of Wofford in the second half. WVU's unusual zone triggered multiple Terrier turnovers – they finished with 20 – that were easily converted into points once West Virginia (2-0) again found its shooting touch. That started with Frank Young, who scored the first nine points of the second half to give WVU a 27-24 lead that it held for the rest of the game. Young finished with 10.

In all, the Mountaineers scored the first 13 points of the second half to lead 32-24. It was part of a 23-2 run spanning both halves that put West Virginia ahead 40-26 with 12:15 left. By then it had doubled the 19-point first half output in less than eight second-half minutes.

"I said at the beginning of the year that Frank was going to be one of the biggest surprises this season," Pittsnogle said. "But I felt responsible for carrying the team because we were not making our shots. I got inside and got some baskets, and things started to fall. Since they did, I wanted the ball more."

Wofford (1-1) eventually trailed 45-28 with 10 minutes left and never got within 16 points afterward. WVU's biggest lead came with 24 seconds left when Darris Nichols hit two free throws for a 22-point lead at 61-39. Nichols' older brother, Shane, plays for Wofford.

Patrick Beilein came off the bench to score 12 points on four three-pointers. All came in in a six-minute span in the second half. Joe Herber had 10 asissts for the second consecutive game. He has 20 asssists and just three turnovers in WVU's first two games.

"I told Kevin (Pittsnogle) when we were warming up for the second half that I was going to hit four three-pointers," Beilein said. "He came up to me later and said ‘I can't believe you did that.'"

Wofford was led by Eric Marshall and Howard Wilkerson, who scored 11 and 10 points, respectively. Both teams had scoring draughts of five-plus minutes, West Virginia's coming in the first half, Wofford's in the second.

The Mountaineers scored 44 of the game's final 61 points, 24 on three-pointers.

"Sometimes that zone just spooks people," WVU head coach John Beilein said. "I still haven't gotten used to how fast leads can change. When we make threes, the defense just steps up big time. Everyone gets pretty charged up. That's the beauty of the three."

Fairleigh Dickinson beat Louisiana Monroe 74-58 in the Morgantown Regional's consolation game.

West Virginia, ranked in the preseason for just the second time in school history, now plays the winner of the No. 2 Texas-hosted Austin bracket. The other regional sites are at No. 9 Kentucky and No. 20 Iowa. The semifinals and finals are in Kansas City, Mo. on Nov. 21 and 22, respectively.

"It's going to be fun to play teams like Kentucky and Texas that have a lot of history," Frank Young said. "We're going out there ready to play."

Like all other preseason tournaments, the Guardians Classic uses an international setup with a wider lane and longer three-point shooting distance, per NCAA rules. The three-point line is 20 feet, nine inches, one foot farther than the line used for regular season games. The lane expanded to 14-feet wide. The free throw lane remains the same distance.


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