In an ugly non-conference matchup between West Virginia and UAB, the Mountaineers’ offense was able to finally wake up in the late stages of the game, winning 65-59.
In the final five minutes, West Virginia (10-1) went on a 19-7 run. Sean McNeil arrived in the final minutes, hitting two jump shots and a pair of free-throws. A big three-pointer by Taz Sherman gave West Virginia a 58-54 lead, their largest of the game, at the time. Free-throws by Sherman and Keddy Johnson ended the ugly game, helping West Virginia steal the game from the Blazers (9-3).
As a team, West Virginia struggled to get the offense going in all three phases of shooting for most of the game. WVU shot 44 percent from the field. More specifically, the team struggled from the three-point line, shooting 2-of-13 (15 percent). The UAB defense gave the Mountaineers problems most of the night with fouls.
The Blazers’ defense didn’t do anything about the missed West Virginia free-throws. The free-throw shooting has been a problem for the Mountaineers all season, coming into the game shooting 60.3 percent, which was No. 352 in the country. West Virginia shot 17-of-27 (63 percent) from the charity stripe on Saturday night.
Coming into Saturday’s game, the guard duo scored 48.2 percent of West Virginia’s points in the first 10 games of the season. In the first half, leading scorers Sherman and McNeil combined for four points on 2-of-9 shooting. West Virginia had nine players score in the first half, but no player scored more than four points.
Once again, the Mountaineers started off slow; the only difference this time is that the game was on the road. The Blazers started off with a 14-4 lead. Once UAB took a double-digit lead early on, the bench came alive. A basket by Malik Curry, Gabe Osabuohien, and a pair of baskets from Pauly Paulicap brought WVU back into the game. West Virginia ended up taking a 20-18 lead, following a Dimon Carrigan layup. This was the sole West Virginia lead until the team led 55-54 with 2:36 left in the game.
Osabuohien made a layup with 8:21 remaining in the second half to cut the UAB lead to seven points. The fifth-year senior forward made an impact in the game to keep the Mountaineers in winning contention. Even thought the box score doesn’t tell the story, Osabuohien finished with six points, nine rebounds, and two steals. He fouled out with 80 seconds remaining.
The West Virginia bench scored 19 points against UAB.
Sherman led the team with 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the field. McNeil had 12 points, while Johnson had nine.
West Virginia will have a few days off before welcoming Youngstown State to the WVU Coliseum, on Wednesday, Dec. 22. The game is set to tipoff at 7 p.m.
(Top Photo: Kelsie LeRose / WVSN)