YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – While it was expected that West Virginia’s upcoming schedule to start getting tougher, it was not expected that would start with Youngstown State.
The game was played in Youngstown’s Covelli Center, just the second time an NCAA basketball game had been played there. It was also a game of mentor versus mentee as YSU’s head coach, Jerrod Calhoun, coached under WVU’s Bob Huggins at both Cincinnati and West Virginia.
In a rare road non-conference game, the no. 25 Mountaineers (10-1) found themselves trailing the mid-major Penguins (7-6) by three points at halftime but came back to win 75-64 .
The Penguins and Mountaineers entered the game with very similar team statistics. West Virginia averages 75.6 points per game, YSU 71.4. West Virginia averages 43.2 rebounds, YSU 41.1.
Youngstown State out-rebounded WVU, played good defense and hit big shots in the first half to have the lead. In the second half, however, the Penguins’ shooting cooled off and WVU’s big men started dominating the paint.
Just a 27.5% three-point shooting team entering the game, YSU hit 5-12 three-pointers in the first half. In the second half, they regressed to the mean, however, shooting only 2-12 beyond the arc. With the YSU scoring slowing down, West Virginia’s big men, Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe, started scoring to give WVU the lead in the second half.
The pair combined for 19 points in the second half and WVU scored 36 total points in the paint. The Mountaineers never closed the rebounding gap created in the first half, finishing the game down 39-33.
Culver finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. While Tshiebwe had 19 points and six rebounds.
It was a homecoming for Culver, a Youngstown native. He grew up less than a two-minute walk from the Covelli Center and went to Warren G. Harding High School. It was also a bit of a hometown crowd for Tshiebwe as he played at Kennedy Catholic High School, a mere 30-minute drive down the road.
Darius Quisenberry led the way for the Penguins, scoring 22. Taz Sherman scored a career-high 10 for the Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers’ next game figures to be their toughest of the young season as they take on the no. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes in Cleveland on Dec. 29 in the Cleveland Classic. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.