Eighth-ranked West Virginia men’s basketball opened its conference slate with a nail-biting 70-65 win over Iowa State at home on Friday — the 888th win of Coach Bob Huggins’s carer.
The back-and-forth prizefight saw neither team lead by double-digits at any point in the contest, with free throw shooting, ball security and defense making the difference for WVU as time ran out.
Derek Culver opened the scoring for the contest, starting a short volley of baskets. He helped lead the Mountaineers to an early advantage, along with some strong early play from Deuce McBride.
That WVU lead got as high as seven in the opening minutes, but Bolton led a Cyclone charge that dwindled that lead.
Neither team was able to get more than a bucket on their opponent, but a layup from Bolton put Iowa State ahead on their last possession. That gave the Cyclones a one-point lead at half.
That score put Bolton at 13 points for the half — a number he almost replicated in the second half for a 25-point game, his season high.
“He drove past us, he shot it over us, and he made some hard shots,” Huggins said.
West Virginia scored two quick baskets inside to get the lead back in the second half, but Iowa State took control with a 12-0 run over a three-minute span to get the highest lead of the game at nine points.
That run was killed by a pair of Derek Culver scores, which sparked the Mountaineers to work that deficit back down.
Oscar Tshiebwe showed up big in the second half, adding 10 of his 12 points for the game without missing a shot. Fellow sophomore McBride was a factor as well, scoring the bulk of his 18 points in the final minutes as well.
The game came down to just a few plays, though. The final nine minutes of the contest again saw neither team growing their leads past a basket.
As time went inside one minute, West Virginia had possession as Iowa State led by just a point. WVU’s Taz Sherman attacked the rim for a layup, missed, grabbed his own rebound and scored the go-ahead putback.
Bolton then drew a foul on the other end and sunk both free throws to get the Cyclones back on top — but those were the final points scored for WVU.
McBride made a pair of free throws to get the advantage back to WVU, but it was Sherman who again came up big — tipping the inbound pass off ISU’s Tyler Harris, a decisive turnover in favor of the Mountaineers.
“I just kind of broke on it, and I just kind of hit the ball towards him a little bit, or I tried to,” Sherman said.
WVU then went on to make four straight free throws to seal the win.
Bolton was the top scorer for ISU by far, with just Jalen Coleman-Lands putting together a double-digit scoring game. He scored 11 points.
Culver finished with his fifth double-double of the season, scoring 18 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. He still saw room for improvement, stating that his team has a knack for playing down to its competition.
“We just need to get out of our own way…and we’ll be okay,” he said.
The victory moves West Virginia to 7-1 on the season, with a 1-0 mark in the Big 12. They get a tough test on Tuesday when they travel to Kansas to face the fifth-ranked Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse, a venue in which they are yet to take a win. That game tips off at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.