West Virginia TKO's Dukes via threes

PITTSBURGH – Frank Young owned the first half. The second belonged to Alex Ruoff.

The tandem combined for 11 three-pointers, part of West Virginia's season-high 17 in its 85-54 win over Duquesne here Saturday. Young had hit a five threes by the end of the first half, which tied a career-high for an entire game. Ruoff, with one at the break, canned a career-best five in the second half for a career-high 18 points. Young also finished with 18 and Joe Alexander had 15 to lead four players in double figures.

The 17 threes were three off the school record of 20 set against Marquette last season and topped the 14 made earlier this year versus Slippery Rock. The 58.6 percentage from behind the arc was a season-best against a Dukes' team that ranks last in the Atlantic-10 in field goal percentage defense at 50.9 percent. West Virginia shot 51.7 percent (31 of 60) in the game.

"When we hit some shots early, we get into the flow," Young said. "It gets contagious. I hit a shot, Al hits a shot, Joe hits shots. We get into a flow, and we have a lot of fun out there."

Young's five threes were part of a team-best nine in 15 attempts in an opening period this year. Duquesne seemed unwilling to move out of its man zone, even after WVU (7-1) hit four three-pointers in its first five shots. Duquesne (2-6), which lost its sixth in a row, stayed even via its inside game early, which accounted for nine of the Dukes' first 14 points in the inside vs. outside tussle as the teams played to an early 16-14 WVU lead. Young had three threes by then and the Mountaineers added to the barrage by making three three-pointers in four shots in an 11-3 run that gave them a 27-17 lead with 11:33 left in the first half. That spurt was part of a 20-5 overall push in which the Mountaineers made four threes to tally eight in the game through the first 14 minutes, by far its hottest start from long range this season.

No Duquesne foe had hit more than nine threes this season in any game. WVU had that many with 4:30 left in the first half coming on Young's fifth three-pointer in as many attempts from behind the arc. That tied his career high, set against Montana this season, and gave the Mountaineers a 42-21 lead with 4:30 left in the half. The teams played to a 45-26 score by the midpoint, when they had combined to make 56 percent of their shots from the floor and half from three-point range. WVU made nine of 15 first-half threes for 27 of its 46 points. The 26 points were the second lowest total for Duquesne this season while West Virginia's 46 were the most for the year.

"We're on a high," said Ruoff, who also had eight assists and four steals against two turnovers. "There have been a couple games this season where Frank has got it going for us. He jumpstarts it and gets us going."

And Ruoff finishes it. The sophomore, which set a career high for the second consecutive game after tallying 15 against N.C. State, nailed a three to start West Virginia's second half scoring. WVU then combined four consecutive Duquesne turnovers with three Ruoff three-pointers and one by Da'Sean Butler for to expand a 58-39 advantage into a 67-39 romp with 10 minutes remaining. The six of nine shooting from three-point range was likely a career-best for Ruoff regardless of level. The forward recalled making six of 10 once in a high school game. He has made 11 of his last 15 three-pointers. West Virginia has made 30 threes in 57 tries in its last two games.

"I asked Frank how many threes he made in the second half and he said ‘I never took one,'" WVU head coach John Beilein said. "That unselfishness is what makes this team work. I would have been jacking them up."

Lost in the offensive onslaught was a 28-20 Mountaineer rebounding advantage and a whopping 38 points off a season-worst 24 turnovers for Duquesne, which has been outrebounded in every game this year. West Virginia has now forced 179 turnovers this season and in its seven wins, foes have averaged 49.4 points. It has won games by a combined 165 points (23.6 per game average).

West Virginia's largest lead was its last, on Joe Mazzulla's layup with 2:07 left that finished the scoring. Once WVU built the 67-39 edge, Duquesne, which committed a season-high 24 turnovers, never got closer than 21 points afterward. The Dukes were led by Robert Mitchell's game-high 22 points. Kieron Achara, who scored 11 of the first 14 Duquesne points, added 15. The Dukes have just nine scholarship players after first year head coach Ron Everhart brought in 14 new players after transfers. Only freshmen have led the Dukes in scoring this season. It was the lone home game between Nov. 22 and Jan. 10 for Duquesne. Eight of its next nine are on the road with a team that had the fewest returning lettermen (one) of any Division I school.

"When you have five different shooters it is difficult to defend," said Everhart, a native of Fairmont, W.Va. who fell to 1-2 against WVU in a 176-178 career record. "When they have a shooting night like tonight, there is not much you can do about it."

The victory guarantees WVU of a winning non-conference record for the 15th consecutive season. It will play six straight home games after playing its last five away from the Coliseum. The Mountaineers now lead the all-time series 46-36 and are 7-5 in the A.J. Palumbo Center and 293-168 against current members of the A-10. Beilein is now 6-1 all-time against Duquesne.

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