Mountaineers Win Blowout, Again Advance To The Sweet 16
SAN DIEGO – West Virginia changed its pressure, and completely deflated Marshall’s chances here in the NCAA Tournament.
Having allowed a trio of early threes, the Mountaineers switched to a diamond-and-one look in the press that dismantled the Herd’s ability to quickly push up the floor. It snapped the shooting touch, and WVU’s relentless pressure took over from there as it won going away in a 94-71 rout to advance to a third Sweet 16 in four seasons.
Jevon Carter was again the spearhead, finishing with 28 points with five steals, five assists and four rebounds on the back of a 21-point performance in the first-round win over Murray State. Like he did against MSU leading scorer Jonathan Stark, Carter limited Marshall’s Jon Elmore well below his season average, and broke his will with a series of steals, harassing defense and dogged determination to thrive and advance.
“I wasn’t focused at all on the offense,” Carter said. “I was just focused on defense. I just let my defense turn into my offense.”
It was the same for West Virginia, which forced 18 turnovers for 26 points. After the Herd led 20-15 early, WVU adjusted to the new press look, and the ability to tighten in the halfcourt and created live ball turnovers for run-outs helped trigger a 27-5 run over the final 10:45 of the half. That flipped the five-point deficit into a 42-25 lead at intermission as the Mountaineers rode Carter’s 11 early points and a trio of threes by Beetle Bolden and Lamont West off the bench.
Upset-minded Marshall was largely helpless as WVU scored 19 consecutive points in one segment with six different players contributing. It was as dominant a stretch as the Mountaineers have had against any team this season, and that largely continued into the second half. After Carter scored on a coast-to-coast lay-in to end the half, the senior shot out of the second half gates with three three-pointers in the first six minutes.
The latter one boosted the lead to 25 points at 61-36 with 14:42 left, but the knockout had come long before as Marshall’s frustration grew as it missed three after three. With Elmore missing eight of 12 shots and limited to just 15 points – well below his season average of 22.9 – the Herd failed to find a reliable scoring option. WVU held Marshall without a field goal over the final 4:14 of the first half, and to just one over the last 10:30 of the opening period.
It was a brutal showcase for a team which had hit 75-plus points 26 times this season. MU had just 50 with 7:20 left to play, with the final 21 coming in garbage time when the Mountaineers began to back off the pressure a bit. Led by Carter’s 28 to go with Lamont West’s 18 off the bench and 11 and 10 from West and Esa Ahmad, respectively, West Virginia’s 94 points tied for its fifth-most ever in an NCAA Tournament game.
“That’s the thing about this team: We can do a lot of different stuff,” Carter said. “We can switch on the fly. We just guard, man. It slowed them down. It caused havoc. It got them taking tough shots. There weren’t a lot of shots in the paint for them. They shot a lot of threes and we did a good job of rebounding.
“It was just what we normally do, pressure the ball, make one guy handle it, deny the playmakers and make one guy try to beat us.”
Both teams made 12 threes, but there was little else for a 13th-seeded underdog against the fifth-seeded Mountaineers (26-10). WVU had advantages in field goals, total shots, rebounding, bench points, second chance points, points in the paint and more as it defeated MU for the sixth straight time and the 10th time in the last 11 meetings. West Virginia now leads the all-time series 34-11 and advances to play top-seeded Villanova on Friday in Boston’s East Region.
“We are just happy to keep playing,” Carter said. “This is March. This is what we came to do. We don’t just want to go to the Sweet 16. We want to win it all, go back, prepare for Villanova, watch a lot of film and get ready for the next game.”
The Mountaineers join three other Big 12 teams in the Sweet 16. West Virginia also reached 25-plus wins for the fourth straight season for the first time since 1957-1960, and have won at least two tournament games in three of its last four NCAA appearances. The victory pushed the Mountaineers to 31-28 all-time in the NCAAs. For Marshall, it was a thud of an ending to a season that saw the Herd make the tournament for the first time in 31 years and win its first game ever in an upset over four-seed Wichita State.
“We ran into a very good West Virginia team,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “They should be proud of the way they played. Carter is an exceptional player. He determines a lot of things out there. Very strong. I congratulated and told him how good he was and told him to get out of here. Tired of seeing him. Tired of playing him. He’s tough.
“We didn’t play well. We didn’t play as hard as we’re going to have to play. Listen, you gotta give them credit. They’re tough. We’re not used to it.”