WVU Improves To 7-0 With Win Over Rhode Island
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Mountaineer men’s basketball team pulled out a tough 86-81 win over Rhode Island Sunday afternoon at the WVU Coliseum.
With the victory West Virginia improved its record to 7-0. It’s WVU’s best start to a season since it was also 7-0, en route to a 15-1 beginning and ultimately a 26-9 record, in the 2015-16 campaign. The Mountaineers’ seven-game opening win streak that year came to an end at Madison Square Garden in a 70-54 loss to Virginia. WVU’s next game this season also comes at The World’s Most Famous Arena, as Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers visit MSG next Saturday at noon where it will face St. John’s (6-2).
Rhode Island fought the Mountaineers throughout much of the first half but a 19-5 run midway through the period helped push the home team to a 44-33 halftime lead. Derek Culver did not start the game for West Virginia, as former Arkansas transfer Gabe Osabuohien earned his first career start with the Mountaineers. But Culver made up for lost time when he did enter the contest six minutes in, finishing the first period with 12 points and seven rebounds. Fellow sophomore Emmitt Matthews led WVU’s scoring in the opening half with 14 points, but other than he and Culver, no other Mountaineer individual had more than three points.
URI started the second half strong and quickly cut West Virginia’s advantage down to four, 45-41, and the battle was on from there.
Led by diminutive junior guard Fatts Russell, who had 18 points to lead Rhode Island to an 83-70 win over WVU last year, the Rams came all the way back to tie things at 60-60 with 9:26 remaining. Russell had 12 points for URI in the first half and another 14 in the first 10 minutes of the second.
Fatts was good – he finished with 32 points – but the combination of Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe was slightly better. The two Mountaineer bigs totaled 36 points and 20 rebounds. Culver alone had a career-high 25 points to go along with 11 rebounds, as the two made big shots after Rhody tied game to lift WVU back into the lead and ultimately to the hard-fought win.