Run-And-Gun Becomes Shootout As WVU Bests Virginia
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia wanted a run-and-gun game against Virginia. What it got was a shootout.
Behind the offense of Jevon Carter and Lamont West, who finished with 23 and 22 points, respectively, WVU built a seven point edge with 15 minutes to play, then spent the entirety of that time trading haymakers with the suddenly red-hot Cavaliers.
Behind a trio of threes from guard Kyle Gray, UVA clawed back and took a 41-39 lead before Carter pushed West Virginia back in front by hitting a three at the other end. From there it was a seesaw contest that would come down to the final minute, when it was ironically a pair of defensive plays that sealed the game for the Mountaineers. First, WVU forced a turnover off a trap in the corner that led to Dax Miles’ tip to Jevon Carter with 55 seconds left and West Virginia clinging to a 63-59 lead.
“I just read the play,” said Miles, who finished with 12 points, four assists and two steals in a rough-shooting outing. “I felt like they were going to try to go to Guy because he had the hot hand in the second half. I just tried to read it. Play better D. We aren’t always going to make shots, but we can make up for it on the defensive end with pressure and effort.”
Carter’s resulting free throws pushed the advantage to 65-59, and the previously unbeaten Cavaliers were on the ropes. The knockout blow was delivered a pair of plays later, when Carter rebounded a missed three-pointer and hit a free throw at the other end. Down seven points and panicking with 27 seconds left, the Cavaliers comeback hopes were finally snuffed out when Miles made his second steal of the final minute, forcing a turnover by Nigel Johnson as he raised his hand.
Carter, meanwhile, sprinted to near midcourt as the horn sounded, celebrating a 68-61 win in a game in which he totaled his fourth career double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. He also added seven assists an a pair of steals after a first half spent trying to do too much against a top 20 opponent.
“That’s why I play college basketball,” said, who made nine of 10 free throws, all in the second half. “The coaches just told me to find a way to win. That’s my and Dax’s job, to lead this team to wins.”
In the end, the No. 18 Mountaineers were able to morph the game into the pacing and style they wanted. The contrast in styles showed itself over the first 20 minutes. No. 15 Virginia won in getting the low-scoring, halfcourt game it desired, but WVU’s staunch defense prevented the Cavaliers (8-1) from getting high quality looks and the Mountaineers forged a 29-26 lead at the break. Carter, playing a touch out of control early while forcing drives to the rim and throwing a pair of poor behind-the-back passes unexpected by teammates, settled nicely and was key on the bottom portion of a zone employed early on by head coach Bob Huggins.
Carter finished the half with just six points, but he amassed seven rebounds and four assists and anchored a defensive effort that handed West Virginia (8-1) the lead at the halfway point despite just 37.9 percent shooting overall, including misses on 10 of 14 threes. That pace kept up for the first six minutes of the second half until the avalanche of Guy threes helped trigger a faster pace of play the rest of the way.
That fed directly into Press Virginia, which reared its head down the stretch as the Mountaineers forced three turnovers over the final 90 seconds and outscored UVA by eight points over the final 10 minutes. That WVU was able to do it despite a season-low six points from its bench shows the ability of this group to simply find ways to win.
“It’s big,” Miles said. “Virginia is a well-coached, great team. We just came out victorious tonight. When we win, everybody looks good. I’ll take that win any day. It doesn’t matter as long as we win.”