MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The 50th season of West Virginia basketball in the WVU Coliseum began with a slow start but ended on the right foot as No. 11 West Virginia defeated the visiting North Texas Mean Green 62-50.
The afternoon started out looking exactly like a game that was scheduled with just two day’s notice and both WVU (5-1) and UNT (1-3) slogged through a first-half riddled with mistakes and poor play.
The first half was defined by two big runs, one from each team. After UNT got out to an early 6-2 lead with 15:49 left, the Mountaineers held the Mean Green scoreless for the next eight and a half minutes. During that time, however, WVU had its own struggle on offense and was only able to go on an 11-0 run, building up a paltry 13-6 lead.
Terence Lewis II broke UNT’s scoring drought with a layup with 7:36 left in the half and it was the Mean Green that would go on a big run next. UNT immediately followed up WVU’s 11-0 run with a 12-0 run of its own to take an 18-13 lead. WVU did not score from 7:36 to 3:19 in the first half.
North Texas carried a 29-21 lead into halftime following an anemic first half for WVU’s offense. The Mountaineers shot 9 of 35 (25.7 percent) from the floor, 2 of 12 on layups and had stretches of 0 of 11 and 2 of 15 shooting.
Star big men Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver barely saw the floor in the first half, playing just 14 minutes combined. Despite neither one picking up a single foul, WVU coach Bob Huggins took them both out after Tshiebwe started the game shooting 0 of 5 while Culver started 0 of 4.
Whatever Huggins said at half time sunk in, however, as the Mountaineers opened the second half on a dominant 18-0 run to rip the lead away from North Texas. The Mean Green shot 0-9 coming out of halftime, not making their first shot until Thomas Bell made a layup with 12:59 on the clock, trailing 39-29.
UNT made a late push on a 9-0 run trying to retake the lead but never got the score closer than four points and WVU closed out its fifth win of the season.
Sean McNeil led all scorers with 15 points as Taz Sherman (13) and Culver (10) were the team’s next leading scorers. The Mountaineers held a 48 to 32 edge in rebounding, powered by Culver (10) and Gabe Osabuohien (nine).
North Texas was led by seniors Javion Hamlet (15 points) and Thomas Bell (12). As a team, the Mean Green shot 19 of 55 (34.5 percent) from the floor — 6 of 33 (18.2 percent) in the second half — while committing 22 personal fouls and turning the ball over 14 times.
The Mountaineers have a quick turnaround as they will host Richmond (4-0) at the Coliseum on Sunday. That game will begin at 1 p.m. and be broadcast on ESPN.