MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – “Basketball’s a game of runs, every team is going to have their runs, we’re going to have ours, they’re going to have theirs. They had theirs and we had ours, it was just a matter of us staying resilient, keeping the lead and winning the game.”
Sophomore forward Emmitt Matthews said that after West Virginia’s 69-61 victory over Northern Colorado Monday Night. In terms of runs, Monday night’s game was rather boring, up until the very end.
With 10:28 left to play in the second half, Brandon Knapper made a jump shot that made the score 54-42 in favor of the Mountaineers. While WVU had led comfortably for much of the game, this 12-point lead was one of the team’s largest of the night. This is also when Northern Colorado went on its run.
The Bears scored the next 12 points to tie the game at 54 and head coach Bob Huggins was not happy.
“I’m not sure I can say what I said in the huddle,” Huggins said postgame. “I wasn’t very happy.”
Huggins said his team grew too content with their lead and stopped playing defense like they were supposed to.
“I think the whole thing started in the first half. We got up and got a little giddy with (the ball) and threw it around a little bit and quite guarding the way were guarding…It’s a matter of us doing what we practice doing every day.”
“I think we just got lackadaisical,” freshman guard Miles McBride said. “Some missed boxouts, some bad passes, bad turnovers. It’s the little things that matter in games like that. When you get people down 10, 15 you’ve got to get it up 20, 30 and keep your foot on their neck.”
UNC’s run started with a missed three-pointer by Knapper that the Bears were able to rebound. Forward Derek Culver was called for a foul and Northern Colorado was sent to the line. Tre’Shon Smoots made both free throws, 54-44 WVU.
On the Mountaineers’ next possession, McBride and Matthews both missed jumpers and UNC got the ball back. The Bears made a jump shot on their next possession, 54-46 WVU.
With the ball, WVU again missed two jump shots, this time McBride and freshman Oscar Tshiebwe. UNC got down the floor and hit a three-points, 54-49 WVU.
Jermaine Haley turned the ball over, leading to another Bears’ made three, 54-52 WVU.
Another missed shot by Matthews and a foul by Tshiebwe sent Northern Colorado to the line for free throws with the chance to tie the game. Kai Edwards made both, all tied up at 54.
Northern Colorado completed a 12-0 run to tie the game with 6:18 left to play. On the run, UNC shot 3-4 from the floor and made all four free throws. WVU missed all six shots they took, fouled twice and turned the ball over once. What looked like a complete disaster for the Mountaineers, suddenly was not.
The Mountaineers went on a run of their own. Culver hit a jumper, UNC turned the ball over. Haley hit a jumper, UNC fouled. The Bears turned the ball over two more times, fouled and missed a three-points while WVU hit another jumper and made free throws to all of a sudden retake a 10-point lead.
During WVU’s 10-0 run, UNC shot 0-2 from the floor, committed three turnovers and two personal fouls. WVU hit all three shots, made four free throws and did not foul.
“When the score got tied we guarded better again,” Huggins said. “We didn’t give straight-line drives, we did a better job stopping penetration and making them shoot the ball over top of us.”
Culver, who did not play in the first half, scored six points during the Mountaineers’ run, making all four free throws.
After UNC tied the game, Matthews said the team had a single message, “win the game.”