Carter, Miles Seal Victory, But WVU Flat Without Starting Backcourt

WVU, Pitt A Tale Of Two Games With Carter, Miles In Foul Trouble

PITTSBURGH – West Virginia was ready to deliver the knockout blow, but these cats had nine lives.

The Mountaineers showed the stark contrast between what they are with Jevon Carter and Dax Miles and what they are without them. Namely, that’s a team which could blow Pitt out of its own house and one that struggled mightily to keep control of a game that seemed well in hand in a 69-60 win here Saturday.

The catalyst was a pair of quick fouls just 30 seconds apart that pushed Carter to the brink with four and forced him to the bench. West Virginia had dominated to that point, using a key 12-0 first half run – in which Carter scored every point – and a stifling defense in both man and zone to build a 54-41 lead with 13:54 left. That’s when Carter exited and the comeback commenced.

Miles picked up his fourth foul two minutes later, and from there it was an edge-of-the-seat contest. Where Pitt’s backcourt of Marcus Carr and Khameron Davis had been smothered, they now began to control the game, hitting three-point shots and pushing the Panthers to a 12-2 run to get within 56-53 with 9:13 left.

Huggins had seen enough at that point, and Carter, Miles and Wes Harris checked back in. The result? West Virginia closed with 13 of the final 20 points of the game as Carter and Miles anchored the victory to hand Pitt just its seventh nonconference loss ever at the Petersen Events Center in 146 games. Carter finished with 19 points and was as steady as ever, while Miles hit for 15.

“Survival,” Huggins said. “I was trying to survive. We had four starters with four fouls.”

It’s not just the points. WVU’s entire offensive flow was disrupted when the two were not on the floor. Players stood around, didn’t pass effectively and were too insistent upon dribbling and settling for contested jumpers. There was little wonder when Carter was sidelined the Mountaineers managed just two points.

“I keep looking for a play where we can shoot an uncontested lay-up because I think I might make that one, Huggins said. “I have a card with 300 some plays on it and I can’t find one play. Our pressure sucks. We haven’t done a very good job with it. We were scoring off the defense.”

But even that went south, with Pitt being able to drive it at the 1-3-1 zone and throw passes across the defense to find open shooters outside.

The final plus-minus totals are revealing. Carter and Miles were each plus-21, meaning West Virginia outscored Pitt by that number when they played. No other player was greater than plus-10, and that was Wes Harris, who fouled out of the game. After that the drop-off goes to plus-six for Lamont West and Konate. Not only are the Mountaineers a different team, they are a shell of themselves.

“Basketball is about runs,” Miles said. “They made a great run. They were hitting a lot of shots. We just got comfortable and stopped guarding. We have to cheer our guys on. We have to become coaches on the benches, and cheerleaders. That’s what makes teams good. When we are down, other players have to step up.”

It wasn’t exactly that the opposite happened. But the difference was stark and dramatic. Carter said he experienced little frustration, but was instead concentrating on communication to the on-floor players.

“Try to make sure they are in the right spots, try to make sure they know what they are doing,” Carter said. “Try to be another coach on the sideline.”

It was, as Huggins said, about survival. WVU stayed in the 1-3-1 zone to protect Miles, Carter and Konate when they all entered, and the Mountaineers allowed Carter and Miles to handle. Carter tallied nine assists against just one turnover while Miles had three steals. No other player had more than two assists. It’s an issue going forward, and one that Huggins has been keenly aware of.

“Kevin can coach,” Huggins said of Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings. “I have great respect for him and what he has done over the years. He runs good stuff and their guys play hard.”

So do the Mountaineers. But they have to have far more consistency from the reserves on nights like this. And with just two more easy nonconference foes, there’s precious little time to improve.