|Field Goal %||43.6||41.5|
|Three Point %||42.9||34.5|
|Free Throw %||73.3||60.9|
The West Virginia Mountaineers (8-4) defeated the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (7-4) 78-68 Sunday afternoon inside the WVU Coliseum. This is arguably the Mountaineers best performance of the year. They played with a lot of energy and effort as a team.
Freshman point guard Jordan McCabe got his first career start. It was evident from the outset that he had gained confidence within Huggins system. Jordan had command of the offense and was shooting with confidence as West Virginia jumped out to an early 7-2 lead after Jordan McCabe stepped into a three at the top of the key.
“Yesterday Jordan, well the last two days Jordan was way better than Knap (Brandon Knapper) so we started him.” Explained West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins on starting freshman Jordan McCabe. “I know as a player when you play pretty well and you kick the guys behind that’s playing ahead of you and then you never get back in the game, its frustrating. I wanted to reward him for having good practices.
The five-point Mountaineer advantage was the biggest margin of the half. Lehigh too a one-point lead after a made free throw by Lance Tejada 19-18.
On a loose ball, Beetle Bolden hustled to save the ball in the corner and Emmitt Mathews Jr quickly got it back to Beetle in the corner for a three to regain the lead.
Another three by Bolded matched the Mountaineers biggest lead of the half 24-19 with just under seven minutes to play.
The Mountain Hawks used good ball movement, finished around the rim and was 4-9 from three-point range to stay within a couple of possessions of the Mountaineers.
West Virginia held a 38-34 lead going into halftime. Beetle Bolden led WVU the with nine points and five rebounds as nine different Mountaineers scored in the first 20 minutes. Wes Harris continued his stellar play with seven points and Esa Ahmad had an energized six points and three rebounds.
The Mountaineers started the second half shooting 0-6 from the field and subsequently the Mountain Hawks were able to tie it up at 38, before Esa Ahmad hit a three to break the tie.
Jordan Cohen went right down the floor, hit a three, was fouled and made the free-throw, completing the four-point play and giving the Mountain Hawks a one-point lead.
On the ensuing possession, Derek Culver hit a turn around one-hander in the post to retake the lead.
West Virginia seemingly was pulling away after turning over Pat Andree and Esa slammed it home on the fast break, then three straight buckets by the Mountaineers gave them an eight-point lead with a little over 13 minutes left in the second half.
Lehigh came right back and only trailed by three after a deep three from Lance Tejada at the 11:03 mark.
Beetle Bolden was fouled attempting a three-pointer, then hit all three free throws to give the Mountaineers a seven-point lead, before Pat Andree hit a three and Pat Cohen made a lay-up down the lane to get the Mountain Hawks within two.
West Virginia would go on a 12-2 run in just under five minutes of play to take a 12-point lead with three minutes to play, as they went on the win by 10.
“We made some shots.” Said Huggins after the game. I thought we had some pretty good shots. We are usually pretty food from the foul line, but we struggled from the foul line. It doesn’t do much good to throw inside if, you know, we’re not going to make free throws. Beetle (Bolden) stepped up and played well. Wenen we can play him at point, it gives us more scoring, obviously. I thought he and Esa (Ahmad), both of them played well. (Lamont) West made big shots again. Derek (Culver) was Derek.”
Freshman Derek Culver looks to be getting comfortable at the collegiate level. In only his second game, he recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in 19 minutes of play.
“He could be an elite rebounder. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that” Boasted Huggs. “His strength and his athleticism, he’s got good hands. I think he could be an elite rebounder. We just have to get him to understand. He made some dumb plays. He made the play where they guy had no chance to make the shot, and he put his hands down and smacked him across the arms. We just got to get him to be a little sound, and it would be nice if we could run a set with him. We all tried to get him to slow down, short of shooting him up with some kind of downer. He was that way in high school; he just goes too fast. Once he gets slowed down, he’s pretty good. We get him to slow down and get his head on the rim – he didn’t have his head on the rim today. He’s a willing passer. I don’t know if he’s a good passer, but he’s a very willing passer, which is rare, especially with this team. We’re a dribbling team that can’t dribble.
After only playing four minutes and scoring two points last week versus Jacksonville State, Esa Ahmad put up 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the win.
“He played more within himself.” Said Huggins. “I think he and Beetle and sometimes Lamont, they want to contribute, and they press rather than just letting the game coming to them. I thought Esa without a question was doing that. I mean he was turning it over at an alarming rate and it was because he was pressing. I wanted to kind of get him to slow down. He was good today because he slowed down and took really good shots.”
Beetle has always been willing to do whatever it takes to be a team player. He wasn’t in the starting lineup, but he came off the bench and led all scorers with a career high 22 points and corralled eight rebounds.
“Well’ he’s played hurt. He’s been hurt. I think today’s the healthiest he’s been all year.” Explained Huggs. “He was able to get through the ball today. He was pushing everything because of his hand. I thought he shot it well yesterday. I told him yesterday, ‘We’re going to have to get you off the ball some because you’re going to have to score for us.’ I like playing him and Chase (Harler) together because Chase is very capable of making shots as well. He didn’t’ make any today, but generally speaking, he shoots it pretty well. It’s two guys that we can get things spread to where Esa can do his thing off the ball, and hopefully, we can get somebody we can throw the ballot in the post. “
West Virginia limited their turnovers to 12. Their turnovers have been decreasing over the last few games, showing steady improvement.
“We’re getting better.” Said Huggins. “We have spent an enormous amount of time on it. But our turnovers come from forcing things. Our turnovers, our bad shots, they come from forcing things, and not taking what we have. I think we have enough guys that if we can ever get them to just do what they can do and what they’re good at doing instead of trying to be somebody they’re not, I think we’d have a pretty good team. But it’s been a fist fight to get them to do that.”
The Mountaineers start off Big 12 play Wednesday night inside the WVU Coliseum at 7:00 pm on ESPNU.