West Virginia made a barrage of free throws on Sunday at the Coliseum, knocking off Eastern Kentucky, 74-67. The Mountaineers finished the day hitting 32 of 39 shots from the charity stripe as West Virginia secured its third straight win.
“Free throw shooting was great for us and that’s something that we’ve been concentrating a lot on in practice everyday, making sure we shoot 100 free throws after practice,” said West Virginia point guard Juwan Staten.
Staten, himself, made went nine of nine from the foul line, finishing with 17 points. Guard Gary Browne added 17 points as well, going 10 of 11 from the line.
“With our dribble-drive offense, it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the rim, so that means we’ll get to the line a lot,” Staten said. “That’s why we’ve been concentrating so hard on knocking down free throws.”
On the other side, Eastern Kentucky went to the line just 11 times in the contest, making six shots. But the Colonels didn’t need free throws in the second half, as they erased a 35-22 halftime deficit to take a 63-61 lead with 4:21 to go in the game following two free throws from Eric Stutz. Overall, EKU shot 63 percent from the floor in the second stanza to mount the comeback.
“I feel like we just need to continue to play 40 minutes,” Staten said. “We came out tough and played great defense and made some shots. I thought we were going to put them away early, but we let them creep back in during the second half and we had to grind it out. We just have to put two halves together.”
“I’m excited to play in the Big 12 now as conference play starts. That’s the most important time of the year and I think we’re getting better everyday.” – Deniz Kilicli
After falling behind by two, West Virginia outscored the Colonels 13-4 in the final four minutes to escape with the win.
“They hit eight 3’s in the second half and we didn’t do a great job on defense,” Browne said. “During the first half, we did a good job defensively and we need to finish a game every time. We can’t just lay down in the second half and let teams come back like that again.”
Aside from Browne and Staten, senior Deniz Kilicli was the only other Mountaineer to finish with double figures in scoring as he tallied 10 points.
“We’re way quicker than others and so now we’re trying to use that (to our advantage),” Kilicli said. “I think it works for us well because we get foul shots and I don’t have to wrestle as much (on the inside). I can just get the ball and it’s wide open. That’s been really important.”
And in the second half, the Mountaineers didn’t get the ball to Kilicli enough, according to West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins.
“They then hit a couple 3’s and all of a sudden they have momentum going and we are kind of hanging our heads. Next thing you know, here it comes,” Huggins said. “It always happens. It is too hard of a game to look off wide open guys.”
For Eastern Kentucky (10-3), guard Glenn Cosey led the way for the Colonels as he put up 21 points, including five 3’s.
“I’m pleased with our guys’ effort to come back in the second half, but obviously West Virginia deserves a lot of credit,” said Eastern Kentucky head coach Jeff Neubauer. “They went to the line and shot 82 percent from the line – a very good basketball team.”
West Virginia (7-5) now jumps into Big 12 play starting on Saturday as the Mountaineers welcome Oklahoma into the Coliseum.
“I’m excited to play in the Big 12 now as conference play starts,” Kilicli said. “That’s the most important time of the year and I think we’re getting better everyday. Now, we just have to put everything together. There were some things we were bad at before and we fixed those. Now, we just have to put it all together for a whole game and I think we’ll be just fine.”