Carter Deflective, Reflective On Record-Setting Assist
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It wasn’t entirely a work of beauty, but West Virginia did what was necessary in securing the 85-70 win over Iowa State on Saturday.
The No. 21 Mountaineers started slow, then hit stride and pulled away in the second half, leading by double digits for the majority of the final 15 minutes. It wasn’t a statement game – far from it – but it was yet another win (that’s 21 on the season) while being able to refrain from allowing any second half surges or potential comebacks.
This one was thorough and authoritative, exactly how it should have been against a floundering Iowa State team which was without two starters and offered up just a two-man bench because of injury and other personal circumstances. The Cyclones entered losers of five of six, and any thoughts of another flat, uninspired performance like the egg WVU laid in Ames on Jan. 31 were quickly dismissed.
Jevon Carter got his record-setting assist within the first four-plus minutes, finding Esa Ahmad on the perimeter at the 15:59 mark as the forward hit a three-pointer. It was No. 500 on the career for Carter, who pushed over the hump and became the fifth player in NCAA Division I history and the first from a power conference to amass at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals. That, in a nutshell, is the centerpiece individual story in a game that played out exactly as expected.
Carter is WVU’s all-time steals leader at (303 plus this game), and he joined Iowa State’s Monte Morris and Kansas’ Kirk Hinrich as the only Big 12 players to have 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in a career. That he’s also the defending National Defensive Player of the Year speaks volumes about his overall game, and the crowd showed its admiration in kind, saluting the senior with a standing ovation though the next 30 seconds of play and into the deadball timeout.
When Carter’s feat was announced, the guard stayed stone faced, listening to instructions from head coach Bob Huggins while the 14,205 in attendance cheered among the greatest accomplishments in school history. Carter finished with a team-high 24 points thanks to a late flurry that saw him turn a 60-49 lead into a 71-53 romp with little more than five minutes left via nine points in 93 seconds.
“I really didn’t notice until everybody started cheering,” Ahmad said. “It felt good. I thought they were cheering for me, but they were cheering for JC. It was good. I was happy he passed it to me and I was able to knock it down.”
Ahmad was asked how long he’d remember the moment.
“Forever,” he said.
That might be how long this stat stands. This is among those rarest of attainments, one that takes years upon years of diligent excellence mixed with a special kind of perseverance and determination. This isn’t an accomplishment built in 12 months or two years. It’s one amassed over four years at the major intercollegiate level for a player who has now appeared in 136 career games, playing more than 4,000 minutes. In that time Carter has racked up 1,612 points, 510 rebounds, 501 assists and a 303 steals.
That’s in addition to being named both the NABC Defensive Player of the Year and Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year, the Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year and to the All-Big 12 second team – and that was just last season. There will be far more hardware following this season, something appreciated more by Carter’s teammates than himself.
“It’s a great job,” senior backcourt mate Dax Miles said. “He works hard. When we first met, I just thought he was trying to prove something (with his defense). But he just kept going with it.”
Miles has had a front row seat – or rather floor view – for nearly all of Carter’s accomplishments, and has come away impressed and, at times, motivated himself. Miles has had an outstanding career himself, and few know the Baltimore native has started 116 games – which is a dozen more than Carter. Both have made an indelible mark on the program, and both will make that final walk down the rolled out carpet when the Mountaineers play host to Texas Tech in the home finale’ Monday night.
“It’s not just me,” Carter said when told Miles tagged him as the player that turned the WVU program around after a handful of down seasons in the middle of Huggins’ tenure. “It was all the guys who came in with me. We all came and bought in and did whatever Huggs told us to do. We went out and played as hard as we could.”
It’s resulted in both Big 12 Tournament and NCAA runs, and Carter is more focused on building upon that than the accolades.
“Our fans have been great all year from start to finish,” Carter said. “They come out and support. I just want to give them everything that I can. I only know how to play one way, so that’s just how I play.”