Back in their Big East days (1995-2012), the Mountaineers cherished any victory over Georgetown, especially on the road, where WVU was just 3-8.
The Hoyas (1-2) may not be what they were back then, but West Virginia’s 80-71 win Sunday at McDonough Arena in Washington, D.C., is still one the Mountaineers will enjoy.
“If you go back a few years to when we were in the Big East, any road win was a good win,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins, who now is 6-3 against the Hoyas while coaching West Virginia. “The last time we came in here it seemed like we got beat by a 100 (actually 77-65 in the 2014 NIT). So, it’s a good feeling to get a Big East win and to get out of here.”
Ranked No. 11 in the country, WVU improved to 4-1 on the season, having played all road games so far. It will return home for its first game this year in the Coliseum when it hosts Robert Morris on Wednesday (7 p.m. on ESPN+).
For 33 minutes Sunday, the Hoyas went toe-to-toe with West Virginia. The home club held a 34-32 halftime lead, and weathered a 10-0 WVU run early in the second half to come back and tie the game at 60-60 with 6:30 remaining.
But the Mountaineers went on another dash, this of the 17-6 variety over the next six minutes, to secure the victory.
A number of Mountaineers had a hand in that decisive spurt. Emmitt Matthews had an individual flurry, which included a couple dunks, Deuce McBride’s hustle, especially in poking away a ball, set the tone, and Derek Culver also came up big in the paint.
“There were a lot of plays in that stretch,” said Huggins. “(McBride’s dive to try to get a steal) was a big play, but there were a lot of them in that stretch. Derek went up and got a rebound between two guys that was a man’s rebound. Emmitt made some plays as well.
“Deuce knocking the ball into the backcourt forced them to take a hurried shot, which got us possession of the ball. That was all part of the run that kind of put the game out of reach.”
It also helped to have Culver on the court. After playing only four minutes in the first half, and garnering just three points and no rebounds because he was saddled with a pair of early fouls, the junior big man was able to get back on the floor – and refrain from further foul difficulty – and dominate down the stretch. He ended up scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
“(Culver) kept bugging the heck out of me to try to get back in the game,” Huggins smirked. “I kept telling him I needed him at the end.
“I may have put him in even a little sooner than I wanted,” added WVU’s veteran coach, “but the whole game changes when he’s in there. He separates people, he keeps ball alive on the offensive glass, and obviously he can score it in there.”
Huggins rarely seems happy with his club’s defense, but he did give that aspect a little more credit Sunday … but only a little.
West Virginia forced Georgetown into 15 turnovers, while committing only five itself. Because of that, WVU was able to win the points-off-turnover category 21-4.
That helped make up for the fact that the normally rebounding-dominate Mountaineers were played to a 43-43 draw on the glass by GU.
“I thought we did a better job handling ball screens, but then we got a little lazy,” stated Huggins.
“We didn’t do a very good job in post defense, and we didn’t really rebound the ball the way we needed to rebound it,” said the coach.
“When the game comes down to defense, I think that is what we have to do,” added McBride. “When we’re not making shots, we have to play good defense.”
West Virginia did outrebound Georgetown by five in the second half, though, which included grabbing some big ones down the stretch. The Mountaineers had 10 offensive rebounds in the second half after managing just three in the first half.
“They intensified their relentlessness,” said Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing of WVU’s second-half rebounding. “One of the things we talked about all game long and all week long was it had to be a five-man effort. All five had to go to the glass. They were able to get a few easy baskets with offensive rebounds and even create fouls. That helped them win the game.”
In all, four different Mountaineers scored in double figures. McBride led the way with 17 points to go along with a career-high seven assists and four steals, which equaled his previous career best.
On top of Culver’s 14, Matthews added 13 points and Taz Sherman had 12.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” noted Matthews. “If there is a big play, it seems we’ll make another one and another one. Then all of the sudden we’re on a 12-0 run or a 15-0 run. It went there way a few times for them today, but we weathered the storm and made a few plays of our own.”