For the second consecutive season, the West Virginia University men’s basketball team is heading back to Morgantown after a multi-team event with a trophy under its arm.
WVU (3-0) defeated Western Kentucky (2-1) 70-64 in the Crossover Classic championship game Friday afternoon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The championship game looked like it was going to be a battle of the big men, with WKU’s Charles Bassey and WVU’s Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver all heralded as future NBA players. The game played out much differently, however, as all three got into foul trouble early in the first half.
Bassey played just three minutes in the first half and 18 minutes overall. Even so, he still scored 15 points and grabbed eight boards.
On the opposite side, Tshiebwe played just 17 minutes, with five points and seven rebounds, but Culver was able to avoid picking up any additional fouls and played 29 minutes. He scored 15 points and had just one rebound.
The Hilltoppers controlled play for much of the first half and took a 36-33 lead into halftime. WKU came out of the break and immediately added to its lead with a 12-5 run to go up 48-38.
Around that time, WVU coach Bob Huggins turned to a three-guard lineup, which WVU for much of the second half. That lineup included Miles ‘Deuce’ McBride, Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil on the floor together.
Using that lineup, WVU was able to put together an 18-2 run that helped the Mountaineers take a 59-52 lead with six minutes left to play. During that run, McBride scored seven and Sherman scored five.
WKU went on a 7-2 run down the stretch, but the Mountaineers made their free throws to end the game and secure the win.
With Culver and Tshiebwe in trouble, senior forward Gabe Osabuohien stepped up and scored eight points with eight rebounds and five assists. McBride finished with 14 points on 4-11 shooting and Sherman had 12 points on 5-8 shooting.
WVU held the edges in rebounding, 35-30, but WKU outscored the Mountaineers in the paint, 44-24.
West Virginia’s next game will be against No. 1 Gonzaga on Dec. 2 in the Jimmy V. Classic.