West Shines In Closing Minutes as WVU Knocks Off Virginia
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In a way, you expect from Jevon Carter what he gave to West Virginia in leading the Mountaineers to victory over No. 15/18 Virginia Tuesday night, which was simply 23 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
But what you are now coming to expect is that Lamont West, the sophomore from Cincinnati, to do almost as much damage and so it was as No. 19 WVU won before 12,816 screaming fans, 68-61.
That left both teams with 8-1 records with the Mountaineers heading for Pitt on Saturday to renew the Backyard Brawl.
“Lamont has gotten better,” Bob Huggins admitted, although it does not come as unexpected improvement for he has always felt he would be an impact scorer. “Lamont is getting off a little quicker. He’s using pump fakes now. He never drove by anybody before, and now you look at him, you can see the ability to drive by people.
“He’s probably our best finisher at the rim. I think that helped him. He was’t shooting it very well.”
So what he did was come in and ask Huggins for help.
“He really just wasn’t lifting it up He wasn’t getting through it. I think when that happens you start missing shots, particularly a guy like him who is used to making shots, you start to press a little bit. Then you start to aim the ball and not shoot it. I just told him to shoot the dang thing.”
With 3:11 left in the game, WVU was clinging to a 58-56 lead when West hit a three and that gave WVU room to breathe, even if it was just momentary.
The thing is, they clung to the lead through the stretch, made their free throws and took down the wins. Prior to the start of the game Bob Huggins honored Jevon Carter for his school record 252nd steal in the last game by handing him the basketball in a brief ceremony at midcourt. Would have been better if Carter had stolen it out of his hands and gone down and scored with it.
They went from that to a classy light show using an app on the fans phones.
Then, when the WVU dance team came out for the first time, Charles Hayes, “The Dancing Fan” joined them in a routine that had the house rocking.
Unfortunately, by the time Hayes made his appearance, a 7-0 WVU lead had made a disappearance and Virginia had settled in to take a 10-9 lead with a free throw coming and 11:53 left in the half.
Also disappearing was any semblance of sense in the officating of the contest, the officials nailing WVU with 12 fouls by halftime and Virginia just 6. The result was that Virginia had a 12-3 advantage in points from the free throw line.
Despite that, and despite Carter making but 3 of 8 shots of the field, including somehow shooting a layup over the backbord — honest — the Mountaineers were clinging to a 29-26 lead at intermission.
WVU was doing pretty much what it had hoped to do, other than the distorted foul totals. They led in rebounds, 19-16, forced 7 turnovers from a team that is averaging only 8.9 turnovers a game, and had held Virginia to just six field goals.
The Mountaineers built their lead to eight early in the second half but the refs kept tooting their whistles as the crowd roared its displeasure and then Kyle Guy, UVA’s top scorer who had been shut out in the first half, revved up his engine.
Guy made the lead disappear with three consecutive threes, which is what a 45.5% 3-point shooter is supposed to do.
Carter, however, put an end to the run and got the lead back for WVU with a three to give him 14 points with still 11:06 left in the game.
Carter scored seven of the next nine Mountaineer points as they took a 48-45 lead in the final eight minutes of a game in which neither team could take charge of.
The sleeping giant who was Guy continued to bomb away from three and hit them, making a couple more in a row to give him 18 points and tie the game at 56-56 but West hit a tough jumper to regain the lead at 58-56 as they went into the final media time out.
“We’re always worried about him,” Huggins said of Guy, “but we let him get going. We stopped guarding him. I thought we did a great job early of making him take tough shots and really work to get those. Then, for whatever reason, we forgot he was out there.
“He’s not a good shooter. He’s a great shooter.”
But on this night he couldn’t match West and Carter.