FINAL: WVU men’s hoops defeats No. 15 UConn, 56-53

Gold and Blue Nation

Kedrian Johnson vs. Radford (PHOTO: Jamie Green)

West Virginia men’s basketball is rehashing an old Big East rivalry with the Connecticut Huskies as part of the Big East/Big 12 Battle. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

The Huskies have been strong through an already-difficult non-conference schedule, climbing the rankings from the 24th spot in the preseason to the top 15. They’ve made the massive jump behind the best offense in their conference, paced by guard RJ Cole, who leads UConn’s four double-digit scorers with 16.3 points per game.

The Mountaineers look at this contest as an opportunity as they host their first ranked opponent of the season. They are coming off a home win over Radford, but head coach Bob Huggins was clear that UConn will present a new challenge for the team this year.

Sean McNeil is making his return to the lineup after missing WVU’s last game against Radford. He’s a welcome sight for WVU, as he is one of their two double-digit scorers.

Stop here for updates as the game unfolds.

2ND HALF

FINAL: West Virginia holds on to earn its first ranked win of the season over No. 15 UConn, 56-53.

0:17 (WVU 53, UCONN 51): The game is officially in West Virginia’s hands. Taz Sherman gets fouled and makes the front-end of a 1-and-1, missing the second to allow Gabe Osabuohien to grab the offensive rebound. UConn is forced to foul, and they foul Sean McNeil — it’s now the double-bonus, so he’ll be shooting two.

2:00 (WVU 52, UCONN 51): What a difference a couple of minutes can make. The WVU defense has tightened up, forcing a shot clock violation that gave the Mountaineers the opportunity to take the lead. Pauly Paulicap gets fouled on the other end and makes one of the free throws to take the lead.

3:50 (WVU 48, UCONN 51): UConn heads into the last media timeout on a four-point run as they lead by three. Foul shooting is a major issue for West Virginia — the Mountaineers have made 35.3 percent of their free throws, compared to 37.5 percent of their three-pointers. In total, WVU has missed 11 free throws on the night.

6:42 (WVU 47, UCONN 47): Just like that, WVU ties it right up with a pair of buckets in the paint. The last one was a layup from Pauly Paulicap — his second of the game — to force Dan Hurley to call a timeout.

7:43 (WVU 43, UCONN 47): The crowd is getting into it, but UConn is holding onto its lead. Jalen Bridges notches his first points of the game with a three pointer, but a pair of dunks from Isaiah Whaley keeps WVU at an arm’s length. It’s also getting quite messy — WVU has been whistled for five fouls while UConn has three.

11:45 (WVU 38, UCONN 39): RJ Cole has scored all of UConn’s 10 points for the half, and a pair of three-pointers give the Huskies a six-point run to swing in front.

15:46 (WVU 36, UCONN 33): The second half has gotten off to a sloppy start. Both teams have combined to start 4-of-12 from the field while giving up five turnovers.

1ST HALF

HALF: West Virginia takes a 32-29 halftime lead over the Huskies. Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil both have 13 to lead all scorers in this, while Isaiah Whaley leads UConn with 9 points.

3:24 (WVU 28, UCONN 25): Regardless of where those points are coming from, it’s working. The McNeil-Sherman connection is back, combining for 23 points already — the tough update, however, is that only two other Mountaineers have a bucket so far. UConn has spread its scoring out so far, with four Huskies scoring multiple times already, led by Isaiah Whaley’s nine points.

6:18 (WVU 20, UCONN 21): They really are trading buckets here, as well as the lead. Since the last break, they’ve passed a one-point lead back-and-forth five times. The difference lies in the source of those points — WVU has scored 45 percent of its points from downtown, as opposed to 14 percent from the Huskies.

10:44 (WVU 16, UCONN 15): Isaiah Whaley leads the Huskies out of the first timeout to a 7-point run, getting UConn to the biggest lead of the game for either team at three points (tying WVU’s first lead in the first minute). WVU opts to trade three-pointers, though, and a big bucket from Taz Sherman gets the Mountaineers back in the lead before the media break.

15:34 (WVU 9, UCONN 9): Sean McNeil has made his presence known right off the bat, sinking the Mountaineers’ first two buckets on his first two attempts. This one is neck-and-neck, though — the Huskies are dominating the inside offensively, scoring everything from the paint.

UConn wins the opening tip. We’re underway at the WVU Coliseum.

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