West Virginia is halfway to accomplishing what it set out to do this week: go 2-0.
Head coach Bob Huggins preached to his team the importance of the games against No. 15 Virginia and Pittsburgh, which could both have impacts on WVU’s RPI and postseason seeding. Two wins could go a long way
And the 18th-ranked Mountaineers (8-1) started out the way they wanted, earning a hard-fought 68-61 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers (8-1) at the Coliseum on Tuesday evening.
“It was real big,” said WVU redshirt sophomore forward Lamont West. “Coach wanted us to get these two wins. Now that this win is over, we just got to get focused and get ready for Pitt.”
Senior guard Daxter Miles made one of the biggest plays of the evening near the end of the contest. Clinging to a 63-59 lead, WVU was one Virginia score away from making it a one-possession game.
But Miles read the play, got the steal off a turnover from Virginia sophomore guard Ty Jerome with 55 seconds remaining. Senior guard Jevon Carter eventually made two free throws with 44 seconds left, making it 65-59 in favor of the Mountaineers and sealing their second straight win over Tony Bennett’s squad.
“I felt like they were going to try to go to (Kyle) Guy because he had the hot hand in the second half,” Miles said.
Virginia sophomore guard Kyle Guy struggled early on, but found his shooting touch in the second half. After going 0-for-6 in the first half, he responded with a career-high six 3s in the second half to finish with 18 points.
In total, Guy connected on six of his team’s nine shots from long range.
“We’re always about him, but we let him get going,” Huggins said. “We stopped guarding him. I thought we did a great job early of making him take tough shots and work really hard to get his shots and then, for whatever reason, forgot he was out there. He’s not a good shooter, he’s a great shooter.”
WVU expected Guy — who entered the contest averaging 16.6 points per game and shooting 48 percent from the field (45.5 percent from long range) to start hitting shots.
“Shooters shoot, so I knew he was going to keep shooting,” Miles said. “Everybody knew he was going to keep shooting.”
Redshirt sophomore forward Lamont West and senior guard Jevon Carter each made critical plays down the stretch, too. West tied a season-high with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting, adding four rebounds to his tally.
Carter notched a triple-double by totaling 23 points and 10 rebounds, alongside seven assists and two steals while playing 40 minutes.
Miles was the third and final Mountaineer to finish with a double-figure scoring total, registering 12 points.
“He (Carter) and West made some tough shots,” said Virginia head coach Tony Bennett. “Whenever we got a lead or were right there, they would hit a 3.”
The Mountaineers now look forward to the Backyard Brawl at 8 p.m. Saturday at Pittsburgh, marking the first meeting between the two teams since 2012. A win would help them accomplish their goal of 2-0 this week.
“I’ve heard a lot about it,” Miles said. “Excited to say the least.”