For a half, everything looked to finally be clicking.
West Virginia university men’s basketball entered halftime with a double-digit lead after dominating the glass and making almost half of its shots in the first half, but the Mountaineers could not hang on in a 70-58 loss to SMU in the opening round of the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Florida Monday night.
Forward Quinn Slazinski – who entered the game as WVU’s leading scorer with 17.3 points per game – logged eight of the Mountaineers’ first 10 points on 3-of-3 shooting, including two three-pointers, en route to a 10-8 lead at the first media timeout.
After his opening run, Slazinski went 2-of-11 from the floor with five points.
Syracuse transfer Jesse Edwards led the Mountaineers in scoring at halftime with 12 points. Three of his five made field goals came via the alley-oop dunk.
WVU missed 14 shots in the first half (13-of-27), but half of their misses turned into offensive rebounds, and the Mountaineers turned those rebounds into 10 second-chance points. They outrebounded the Mustangs 25-11 in the first half. Each of their seven players to earn first-half minutes also logged positive plus-minus efficiency scores, and WVU led 36-25 at halftime.
The second half did not go nearly as swimmingly.
The Mountaineers squandered their 11-point halftime less than six minutes into the second half. By the eight-minute mark, SMU held a comfortable 54-47 after outscoring WVU 29-11 in the first 13 minutes of the half. During that stretch, WVU shot 4-of-18 from the field and 2-of-5 from the free-throw line.
Three-balls from Josiah Harris and Seth Wilson cooled the Mustangs’ run momentarily to cut their lead down to four at 56-52, but SMU continued to score as WVU proceeded to go on a six-minute scoring drought. The Mustangs led by as many as 14 points before securing the final 70-58 lead.
The Mountaineers shot 25.9% from the field and missed five-of-eleven free throws in the second half. No player scored more than six points or made more than two field goals. Edwards finished with a team-high 18 points on the night with nine rebounds.
With Virginia losing their game to Wisconsin Monday, WVU will take on the Cavaliers at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday night in Fort Myers on FS1.