West Virginia erasing an 18-point second-half deficit? Enthralling. Iowa State scoring the game-winner on a layup by Georges Niang with 2.5 seconds left? Deflating.
So goes this maddening season of Mountaineers basketball.
Jabarie Hinds scored 20 points — including the tying 3 with 11.6 seconds left — and Eron Harris scored 17 to lead the Mountaineers (8-8, 1-3), who started 0-of-12 from 3-point range before Harris sank a deep jumper in transition with 10:55 left.
Harris hit four 3-pointers in the second-half surge, sparking West Virginia to a 9-of-12 spurt from long range. But for all the big shots Harris hit during the rally, the freshman didn’t get a chance to launch one at the buzzer, tumbling to the floor at midcourt after colliding with a Iowa State’s Chris Babb.
“We’re a call or two away from being 3-1 in the league instead of 1-3.” — WVU coach Bob Huggins
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, whose team gave up the lead on a late foul call in Saturday’s 65-64 loss to Kansas State, thought Harris was knocked down and should have been attempting the tying free throws.
“That was every bit as much a foul as the one they called on us against Kansas State,” Huggins said.
“I just can’t believe that we come off a home (game) where a guy gets bumped and falls down and it’s a foul, and there’s no question there’s a bump (on Harris) and he falls down and there’s no call.”
Playing in front of 13,000-plus fans at Hilton Coliseum, Iowa State (12-4, 2-1) seemingly took control with an 18-4 run that built a 56-38 margin with 9:04 left. But West Virginia fought back, replicating the Cyclones’ template with a smaller lineup that spread the floor.
Melvin Ejim had 16 points and 13 rebounds — his seventh double-double of the season — before fouling out with 2:01 left for Iowa State. Korie Lucious had 15 points and eight assists, and Will Clyburn added 11 points, but Clyburn’s biggest contribution was his drive-and-dish to Niang in the final seconds.
Off an isolation play, the 6-foot-7 Clyburn drove baseline from the right wing and spun at the low post. That drew help defense from WVU center Aaric Murray, leaving Niang open beneath the basket when Hinds didn’t rotate with the weakside defense.
WVU, already playing without starting guard Terry Henderson (lower back), lost point guard Gary Browne to an ankle injury in the first half.
That led to the return of point guard Juwan Staten, whom Huggins had benched since halftime of the Texas game. Staten produced seven points and seven assists and only one turnover in 29 minutes.
Mountaineers guard Matt Humphrey also was back in the rotation, seeing his first action in four games. The senior scored nine points by making 3-of-4 from 3-point range during the late-game comeback.
The Mountaineers outrebounded Iowa State 38-35 and became the first team to hold the Cyclones under 70 points this season. Both teams shot 41 percent from the floor overall, and though ISU came in as one of the national leaders in 3-point field goals, WVU’s late surge helped it finish 9-of-24 from beyond the arc compared to ISU’s 8-of-24.
The Cyclones were 15-of-19 at the foul line, however, compared to WVU’s 8-of-13. Huggins ended his postgame comments by reiterating his belief that Harris should have gone to the line at the end of regulation.
“I don’t care what they call, but it has got to be consistent,” he said. “It’s got to be consistent throughout the league. They want us to be consistent. The want our players to be consistent in the way we guard and the way we do things. Then they have to be consistent in the way the whistle is blown.”
“We’re a call or two away from being 3-1 in the league instead of 1-3.”
WVU led by as many as eight points in the first half yet went into intermission trailing 29-26.
MORE SMALL BALL?
Huggins was emphatic about sticking with the smaller lineup in future games.
“This team was built to play in the Big East where you have big, physical people. Playing with those bigs hasn’t worked — just has not worked,” he said. “We need to go small and concentrate on penetrate and pitching.”
Forward Kevin Noreen had 10 rebounds and was the lone big man on the court for much of WVU’s comeback.
Said Huggins: “We played with one big, the one big who actually tried to get a rebound.”
Murray was invisible most of the night thanks to foul trouble. He finished with one point, two rebounds, three blocks and two turnovers in 10 minutes.
Forward Deniz Kilicli played 19 minutes, going 3-of-6 from the floor for six points, three rebounds and two turnovers.
His 8-of-22 shooting night wasn’t exactly efficient, and the 2-of-9 effort from 3-point range might indicate he’s still hoisting too many jumpers, but Hinds made a clutch 3-pointer late directly in front of the West Virginia bench.
Down 67-64 and guarded tightly in the right corner by Lucious, Hinds stutter-stepped as if to drive and sent the off-balance defender spilling to the floor, leading to a step-back 3-pointer that evened the game with 11.6 seconds remaining.
17 STRAIGHT AT HOME
Iowa State’s 17-game winning streak at Hilton Coliseum stands as the eighth-longest active streak in Division I, but few of those wins were as helter-skelter as Wednesday’s, when the Cyclones squandered a giant second-half lead.
ISU coach Fred Hoiberg wasn’t overly disappointed with his team’s defensive closeouts, even though WVU erupted for 29 points in the final 8:45.
“We had a game plan going in that we were going to pack it in and make them make shots,” Hoiberg said. “It worked to perfection — that’s what gave us a 17-point lead was packing it in, playing with our toes on the 3-point line.
“Those guys started out 0-for-13, but I think they hit nine of their last 12, and a lot of those were bombs. They hit from 25, 26 feet with a hand in their face. And you know, if they hit those, you shake their hand.”
PHYSICAL, AS PROMISED
Iowa State’s staff tried to prep the Cyclones for West Virginia’s punishing style. Still, Lucious said it was hard to simulate the kind of ruggedness the Mountaineers bring.
“It was very physical — they have a lot of athletes, a lot of strong guys out there,” Lucious said. “They crashed the boards real hard, pushing in our backs, grabbing our arms, but we knew that coming into this game. We got ready for it. So we just tried to play as physical as them.
“We took their blows and we just hung in the game, played together and pulled it out.”
Browne contributed two points an four rebounds in 16 minutes before hobbling off in the first half. Moments later on the bench, he used scissors to remove his right ankle wrap. His status for Saturday’s game at Purdue is uncertain.
“I have no idea,” Huggins said. “I thought Doc said he was going to tape him and bring him back out.”