Just two days after Prairie View led No. 7 Tennessee 36-35 at halftime, West Virginia recorded its largest margin of victory in at least 37 years in a 106-41 win over the Panthers on Sunday.
Alex Ruoff scored 22 points and the Mountaineers – now 2-0 going into a game versus Tennessee – forced a school-record tying 34 turnovers that led to 45 points. They tallied 10 in the initial eight minutes and, led by Jamie Smalligan's two 3-pointers and transition dunk, scored 20 of the first 23 points. The 20-3 lead with 12:31 left in the first half sapped any upset confidence Prairie View might have had.
"We just didn't let them get into their offense," Huggins said of a team that has. "You let them run their offense, they are a pretty good team. That Tennessee team wasn't ready to play. That's what we have been telling them from day one: Take them out of their game."
West Virginia used its newfound physical style under Huggins, in his first season, to push the bigger Panthers away from the basket. That created match-up problems on the perimeter and within guard play, and the Mountaineers continually capitalized with scores in transition and 3-pointers. An 18-0 run keyed by two Ruoff 3-pointers and seven points in the paint put the Mountaineers ahead 49-12 lead with 3:35 left before the break. The edge was 54-18 at the half, the fourth-largest halftime lead in West Virginia school history and the largest in more than a decade.
"Coach talked to us and said to come out to this game with a lot of enthusiasm," forward Da'Sean Butler said. "That's just what we did – especially Alex."
Ruoff, who had a 17 points in West Virginia's opening win, hit two of his five threes and had 18 points at the half, equaling Prairie View's team scoring. He made eight of his nine shots overall and did not miss from behind the arc. That was part of WVU's 15-of-26 (57.7 percent) performance from 3-point range, which was better than their overall shooting percentage of 54.7 percent.
Prairie View shot 21 percent, missing 44 of 56 shots. The Panthers, already with 23 turnovers at the half, had allowed as many field goals – 20 – as they had shots by then. It has lost 25 of its last 35 games.
"People will just try to make plays when you take a team out of what they want to do," Butler said. "They'll straight drive to the basket. And we really contained that. We did a really good job of that."
Prairie View was led by Aaron Smith's 14 points. Brian Ezeh scored 10. The two combined for 13 turnovers, however. Prairie View now has 100 turnovers in three games against major conference foes. West Virginia also forced 34 turnovers against Adelphia in 1979 in a game also played inside the Coliseum, in its 37th year.
Jamie Smalligan and Darris Nichols added 13 points apiece for West Virginia, which scored the most regulation points since it beat Puerto Rico-Mayaguez 111-63 in 1997. The Mountaineers emptied the bench with more than nine minutes left, playing all 13 players it doesn't plan to redshirt. All but two scored.
Huggins, obviously pleased with the execution and enthusiasm of a team with 10 freshmen and sophomores, joked that he wished he knew West Virginia needed one more steal to set a school record.
"Why didn't they tell me sooner," Huggins said. "We would have stolen it one more time."
The game was part of the opening two rounds of the Legends Classic. West Virginia faces the Tennessee Nov. 23. No. 16 Texas, Tennessee, West Virginia and New Mexico State automatically advance to the Legends Classic semifinals in Newark, N.J.