American 64 West Virginia 98
West Virginia had a slow start in the home opener against the American Eagles, but would improve to 1-1 on the season. The slow start was expected, after making the trip from Germany over the weekend, but the Mountaineers would find a rhythm in the second half and route the American Eagles.
The Mountaineers missed their first seven shots to start the game and went 2-4 from the free throw line before Wesley Harris laid it in with 16:04 to play in the first half. West Virginia could only put up 18 points in the first 10 minutes of the game.
American put a 10-2 run together to take the lead, 21-20, at the 8:07 mark, in the first half. The young Mountaineer team didn’t handle adversity in the first game against Texas A&M when the Aggies would make a run, but West Virginia would respond Wednesday night after American spurt, outscoring the Eagles 24-12 to close out the half.
West Virginia struggled to find their shot in the first half shooting just 38% (12-32) from the floor and 22% (2-9) from behind the arc, “We forced things, we had shots, we just didn’t make any” said head coach Bob Huggins in his post-game press conference.
In the second half, West Virginia would find their shot, shooting 64.6% from the field. James “Beetle” Bolden was the offensive spark the Mountaineers were looking for, getting 12 of his 16 points in the second half and Daxter Miles got his offense going, scoring 12 of his 20 in the second half.
The Mountaineers were more aggressive towards the basket this game, not settling for jump shots, and was rewarded with 39 trips to the free throw line, making 29 of them (74.4%).
They also finished around the rim, absorbing contact, and scoring 42 points in the paint.
West Virginia dropped out of the press, but was able to force 22 turnovers in the game and had 28 points off the turnovers. “We continually turn guys loose. We had fourteen steals and JC (Jevon Carter) had 9 of them though, so I would have a hard time saying the other guys get it”, said Huggins. This is a young team and it’s going to take some time for this young group to get into the right position in the press.
The Mountaineers were dominate in the second half, and the team took another step closer to coming together and finding their roles.
Sagaba Konate did not play in this game because of a “coaches decision”, “Sags is a great kid, he really is, he’s gotta learn that he’s gotta do what he’s asked to do, and I’m sure he will after this. It wasn’t a suspension or anything, I just didn’t want to play him, that’s my prerogative”, said Huggins.
This was a good game to get the Mountaineers confidence back, after the loss to Texas A&M on Friday night. It wasn’t a pretty start, but to see the team come together in the late in the first half and the whole second half is what you look for as West Virginia looks to get ready for Big XII play come January.
The Mountaineers host Morgan State Saturday at 7:30 at the Coliseum.