Mountaineers Needed A Complete Game Showing
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia needed a game like the blowout of Morgan State, though not for the reasons many anticipated.
It had nothing to do with confidence, credence or conviction in their abilities after a poor opener versus Texas A&M and a mediocre first half versus American. Instead, the Mountaineers needed this contest to check that there was an uptick in fundamentals and willingness to play hard and for all 40 minutes. They got that and more in the 111-48 victory, a game which, by its end, ranked in the top 23 all-time for highest offensive output.
“Great team effort,” said Dax Miles, who set a career-high with 32 points. “We were talking a lot more today on defense and offense. We were clicking today. We worked hard. It’s energy. Guys were on the same page.”
Miles had talked about needing to find a rhythm, a flow to the pacing and play on both ends after the win over American. WVU did in finishing with extreme advantages in nearly every facet of play in among the more lopsided victories of the Bob Huggins era. The Mountaineers got whatever they wanted whenever they wanted it at both ends against Morgan State. The Bears were badly outmatched in skill, size and talent, and it showed throughout. The contest was never close; WVU went ahead by 10 just six minutes in, and expanded the 17-7 edge to a whopping 50-8 with a 33-1 run.
The Mountaineers got nine lay-ups during the push, including five in a row, while the field goal drought for Morgan State went from the 13:49 mark until there was just 4:16 remaining in the half. That’s a span of 8:33 in which the Bears hit only a free throw, while WVU made 14 field goals, just two of which were three-pointers. The spurt ended any issue of outcome, and set the stage to force West Virginia to provide it would continue to push the opponent.
It happened, as the Mountaineers won the second half by nearly as big of a margin as the first at 52-28. By the end, the stat sheet was a showcase of exactly what this team can do when it plays with fundamentals and attention to detail for the full length of a game, including 27 turnovers forced and 26 assists to go with a 41-16 edge in bench points and the sizable rebounding margin desired versus such foes.
“I can’t say it was practice,” said Miles, who was 12-for-15 from the field. “You can’t underestimate anybody you play. We gotta keep getting better at everything. I was talking to the young guys about staying into it, not drifting off. Focus on the now.”
It’s a base aspect of play, but one that often times got away from WVU in the first two games. The Mountaineers built a 13-point lead versus A&M, then literally watched as it evaporated before failing to respond altogether. American was a tale of two halves, a bad first wiped away by a dominating second. But Morgan State was the first full 40 of the year, and as dominant as West Virginia was, it showed it could finish off a foe to the very end with far better energy and execution than it had thus far.
“It was better than what we did in the first game and the first half of the second game,” said Jevon Carter, who hit for 16 points, five assists and four steals. “Our main focus was to make sure we came out and had energy. That was our key word today. Make sure we bring energy and that’s what we did.
“We played together more. Texas A&M we were all out there individually. These last two games we have been putting it together. Why didn’t we have it last week? I don’t know. I can’t say where it comes from. It’s what we do.”