MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — To open the 111th season of Mountaineer basketball, West Virginia hosted the Akron Zips at the WVU Coliseum Friday night.
Bob Huggins’ old team could not keep up with the new-look Mountaineers as WVU won its season opener 94-84. Huggins coached the Zips for five seasons from 1984-89 compiling a 97-46 record.
The Zips started the game fast, making three three-pointers in the game’s first three minutes to jump out to an 11-5 lead. Just as shades of last season’s 99-94 overtime loss to Buffalo started to creep into the minds of Mountainers fans, back-to-back threes by Emmitt Mathews Jr. put WVU ahead 14-11.
Akron’s torrid three-point shooting kept the game close for much of the first half, but a vicious 0-10 shooting streak by the Zips allowed West Virginia to pull away to a 47-33 halftime lead. Akron’s Tyler Cheese led all scores at the half with 11 points.
The Mountaineers were able to sustain a double-digit lead through much of the second half to secure the win.
Jermaine Haley led the team with 16 points and s3ven rebounds with Derek Culver adding 16 points and seven boards of his own. Culver only shot 4-of-15 from the floor but sank all eight of his free throws. Matthews finished with 13 points and Xeyrius Williams led the Zips with 20.
True freshman Oscar Tshiebwe only played 12 minutes in the game after getting into foul trouble with three personal fouls in the first half.
The Mountaineers’ next game will be a reinstatement of the Backyard Brawl on Nov. 15. West Virginia will travel to the Petersen Events Center to take on the Panthers for a 7 p.m. tip-off.