It was an opener eight months in the making, but the No. 15 West Virginia Mountaineers were finally back on the hardwood Wednesday night, taking on South Dakota State in the first round of the Crossover Classic.
Despite a sluggish first half, West Virginia pulled out a win in their 2020-21 season-opener, defeating SDSU 79-71 in the third game of the day at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
West Virginia (1-0) was out-rebounded, 24-18, and shot just 4-16 from three-point range in the first half, but lead 37-32 at the break. The Mountaineers were helped out by seven first-half turnovers by the Jackrabbits (0-1) and four blocks.
WVU trailed 19-14 midway through the first half but immediately hit three quick jump shots to retake a 20-19 lead. The Mountaineers finished the half on a 15-8 run, powered by five points from Miles McBride and six points from Taz Sherman.
After three quick points from the Jackrabbits to start the second half, WVU went on a 12-2 run to open up a 12-point, 49-37 lead. The Jackrabbits would cut the lead to just four points with a minute left but were unable to ever go on a big enough run to fully pull ahead.
McBride started at point guard for the Mountaineers and led all scorers with 23 points. McBride went 9-19 from the floor with three assists and no turnovers. Next to McBride in the starting lineup was Sean McNeil, who started the game ice-cold shooting the ball but turned it around to score 16 points, shooting 6-16, 2-9 from three. Taz Sherman led WVU’s bench scorers with 14 points.
Junior big man Derek Culver filled up the stat sheet with seven points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and two steals. Senior Gabe Osabuohien grabbed eight rebounds off the bench with three steals. Sophomore big man Oscar Tshiebwe got in early foul trouble and played just 14 minutes all game long.
Four Jackrabbits scored in double figures, with reigning Summit League Player of the Year Doug Wilson leading the way with 17. Sophomore Noah Freidel scored 16 and also had eight rebounds and six assists.
WVU held the edge in rebounding, 41-39, and only turned the ball over three times to SDSU’s 14.
WVU will play the winner of Utah State and VCU in the second round of the Crossover Classic tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. EST.