Mountaineers Finally Find Shooting Touch

MORGANTOWN — Basketball really is a simple game.

Just ask veteran West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.

“We made shots,” he said. “When you make some shots, you play better defense.”

And, that was the case Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum as the host Mountaineers shot a torrid 65.5 percent (19 of 29) in the second half en route to an 86-51 victory over Texas (12-7, 3-4 Big 12).

“You just have to stay with it,” junior Esa Ahmad said. “If we not hitting our shots, we just have to stay with it.”

And, stay the course the Mountaineers did against a Longhorns team still dealing with the loss of standout guard Anthony Jones, who was lost to the team after being diagnosed with leukemia.

“I thought early on we were able to play with them,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “Then, we started to do things that we talked about before game that we can’t do. I think we were up 20-18 and then only scored two more points the rest of the half.

West Virginia, which improved to 16-3 overall and 5-2 in Big 12 play with a game at TCU on Monday, took advantage of the Longhorns’ drought running off 14 of the final 16 points of the opening 20 minutes to take a 32-22 lead into the locker rooms.

Texas, which received nine points apiece from Mohamed Bamba, Kerwin Roach II and Jacob Young, sliced the deficit to seven early in the second half until sophomore James ‘Beetle’ Bolden went on a tear from behind the arc.

“(My shooting) hasn’t been what I’ve wanted it to be the last couple of games,” Bolden said. “I spent some extra time since the loss to Kansas with JC and Dax in the gym and it paid off.”

Bolden finished with 19 points on 6-of-9 from the field (5 of 6 from the arc) as WVU placed four players in double figures.

Senior Jevon Carter led the way with 22 points and eight assists while Daxter Miles Jr. chipped in 15 and Konate 10.

In the featured matchup of the game the Mountaineers’ Konate more than held up against the Longhorns’ Bamba — the Big 12 leader in rebounds and blocked shots.

West Virginia’s big man hauled down a game-high 14 rebounds and blocked six shots while Bamba led the visitors with 13 caroms and four rejections.

“I was able to make some shots,” Konate said. “I played hard. The team played hard. When we play hard as a team we are very hard to beat.”

Shooting woes, which have plagued the Mountaineers all season, but have really hurt their chances at a first Big 12 regular season title this year, continued to haunt them as they headed to the locker rooms leading by 10, 32-22, at the intermission, but shooting only 30.8 percent (12 of 39) from the field.

The only player enjoying any reasonable amount of success was Bolden, who made good on 3-of-5 first half attempts (all triples) to lead the team in scoring with nine. However, an apparent groin injury sent the sophomore to the sideline with 6:22 remaining before the half.

Locally, Cameron’s Logan Routt and Wheeling Central grad Chase Harler had solid games. Routt came down with five rebounds in 10 minutes of play while Harler saw 12 minutes of action.

“Logan (Routt) and Chase (Harler) played well,” Huggins said. “Logan was able to get some rebounds, but more importantly kept them from getting rebounds while Chase gave us some big minutes when we needed to give JC and Dax a rest.”