|Field Goal %||40.3||40.8|
|Three Point %||31.0||27.3|
|Free Throw %||57.1||72.2|
The West Virginia Mountaineers (15-20) advance in the College Basketball Invitational in the win over the Grand Canyon Antelopes (20-14) 77-63. WVU lacked energy to start the game and Grand Canyon took advantage early. Nevertheless, the Mountaineers started to push the ball and ran away with the game in the second half.
West Virginia came out sluggish and sloppy to start the game, however, the Antelopes had their moments of carelessness with the ball.
“I think we came out really flat, and we kept trying to sub and get the right group in there that could do a better job defensively.” Explained West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins after the game.
GCU had the early advantage coming out with more energy and was seemingly taking the physicality part of the game to the Mountaineers. As a result, WVU trailed 14-7 at the 13-minute mark and was out-rebounded 11-5.
“They were pretty physical.” Said freshmen forward Derek Culver. “Finke and Lever are really good players. They all perimeter players, kind of. They’re big perimeter guys. They shoot the ball and bounce it a little bit. Very good players.”
Huggins told the players leading up to the game GCU would be physical. “Well, I watched them on film, and I knew they would be physical. They’re not just big, they’re skilled. They pass it well, they shoot it well. And that’s what I kept telling our guys. We have to push them out of their comfort zone. If you let them play comfortable, they are really good; really, really good.”
West Virginia put together a 9-0 run midway through the half to take 20-17 lead behind the energy of Brandon Knapper and Emmitt Mathews Jr attacking the rim.
The Mountaineers couldn’t sustain the momentum and had five of their six first half turnovers in the final eight minutes of the half, but junior forward Logan Routt gave the Mountaineers some energy on a blocked shot with about 90 seconds left to go in the half. Then to close out the half, Chase Harler deflected a pass, dove on the floor and got it to Logan Routt who found Jermaine Haley streaking down the floor with an emphatic dunk over the defender to end the half, giving WVU a four-point lead.
“The defense turned everything around for us.” Explained Huggins. “We started taking things away; they weren’t able to run what they wanted to run, and we got a couple steals that led to layups. I think the defense, I mean everybody I (have) can dunk, but I don’t know if all of them play defense. I was happy with those guys that guarded.”
Grand Canyon took the lead twice from the Mountaineers midway through the second half. However, Chase Harler drilled a three from the wing on his way to 10 second half points that helped ignite a 22-2 run in five minutes.
“I told our coaching staff that we have to get Chase started.” Said Huggins. “I thought we had a pretty good look for him, and he shot it over the rim. He came back and shot the 3 that he hit right in front of the bench, that was the key. That’s what I thought started the run. I’ve had a lot of confidence in him because I watched him make shots for two days.”
A big part of that run was the transition offense and Jermaine Haley pushing the ball up the floor for 16 second half points.
“I couldn’t put the ball in the hole at all in the first half.” Said Haley. “I just had to keep my confidence up and stay aggressive. And, once I saw the ball go through the hoop a couple of times it kind of sparked me. So, just got to stay aggressive, really, and the coaches keep telling me ‘always be aggressive’ and good things usually come out of it.”
The Mountaineers built and 18-point lead with just over two minutes to go in the game as they went on to win 77-63.
West Virginia will host the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers on Monday inside the WVU Coliseum at 7:00 pm est.