BLACKSBURG, Va. — West Virginia sprinted out to a sizable lead at Virginia Tech, only to learn why ESPN calls this a “Tip-off Marathon.”

From up 17 points in the first half to down 10 in the second half, the Mountaineers learned just how quickly momentum and confidence can evaporate on the road, even against a team picked last in the ACC.

The 87-82 loss left West Virginia coach Bob Huggins relying on an old adage when his young team proved unreliable in key situations.

“Like I say all the time, ‘You have to be really dumb to have to lose to learn.’ Why can’t we win and learn?”

A young Virginia Tech team seemingly learned from its upset loss to South Carolina Upstate, with freshmen guards Ben Emelogu (22 points) and Devin Wilson (16 points) keying the comeback after WVU led 29-12.

“I think we got a little careless once we got that lead,” said Mountaineers point guard Juwan Staten. “And once they started making shots, they didn’t stop.”

The gap was 40-24 with 2:54 left in the half when the Hokies (1-1) started their push, closing to 41-36 on Emelogu’s stop-and-pop 3-pointer with 3 seconds left.

The intermission did nothing to slow the surge as Virginia Tech opened the second half scoring eight unanswered.

“They started to get hyped,” said Remi Dibo, whose 17 points off the bench weren’t enough to save WVU (1-1). “They started to play harder than we did, and we can’t let that happen.”

On its way to shooting 60 percent in the second half, Virginia Tech led 55-45 before the Mountaineers finally stabilized. Eron Harris, suffering through a 4-for-17 shooting day that included countless misses on driving attempts in the lane, made two free throws to put WVU up 62-61.

And when Nathan Adrian buried a 3-pointer at the 2:31 mark, West Virginia looked as if it might survive. Yet Virginia Tech quickly retook the lead on Jarell Eddie’s jumper before Cadarian Raines swatted down Staten’s layup—one of 13 blocks for the Hokies.

Sophomore guard Adam Smith (19 points) scored Virginia Tech’s next five to make it 83-79, sending WVU into hurry-up mode. Dibo drained a 3 at the 24-second mark but then had to commit his fifth foul with 16 seconds left. After Smith made two more free throws, West Virginia’s last chance to tie flutered away when a designed play for Adrian went awry and the freshman—just a few steps in front of Huggins—forced a 3-point air ball from the left wing.

“Pass the ball. You didn’t have it. (The play) didn’t work,” said Huggins. “Drive and pitch it to somebody else for a better look. That ball had no chance.”

Along with Dibo’s 5-of-9 touch from 3-point range, West Virginia also received some bench production from guard Gary Browne, who scored 15 on 5-of-8 shooting. (Browne’s last shot, however, was an off-balance, off-target 18-footer coming out of a timeout with WVU trailing 80-77.)

Rehabbing from a shin injury, Terry Henderson played eight minutes in the first half, scoring two points. He did not appear in the second half.

“I tried to play Terry, which I shouldn’t have,” Huggins said. “I put him in a bad spot. You can’t not play for a week-and-a-half and think you’re going to pick up where you left off. It’s not that kind of game.”

While the scouting report on Emelogu was that of a good high school scorer in Texas, he had posted only six points against USC Upstate.

“We didn’t know that much about him, but we definitely found out tonight what kind of shooter he was,” Staten said. “He just got hot, caught fire. It seemed like everything he put was going in.”

The rebounds were even at 43, with Devin Williams grabbing 11 for WVU despite battling foul trouble. The Mountaineers’ second-leading rebounder was Staten (nine), who also handed out seven assists against one turnover. … Freshman forward Brandon Watkins picked up four fouls in three minutes. … West Virginia finished 21-of-33 from the foul line, including 9-of-17 in the second half. Virginia Tech made 30-of-38 overall.

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  • pghmountaineer

    Moe, Love the Miley Cyrus comment.
    That's was great! :)

  • mark

    It all boils down to missed free throws. The rest is just window dressing.

  • pghmountaineer

    Moe. Have some patience my man. Huggs is in control. We only need 16 more wins and we are NIT bound.
    Lets GOOOOOOOOOOOO Mountaineers!

  • Moe's Joe

    Huggins will fix it? Thats a laugh. He has about as much chance of that as Miley Cyrus has of becoming Hannah Montana again. It ain't gonna happen.

  • Moe's Joe

    Are Patterson and DeForest coaching the defense on the basketball team now? With the way they give up points, it sure looks that way.

  • Greg

    I think Huggs' blue & gold wind jacket was the sole reason for the loss. I mean the outcry for him to switch from black has been so overwhelming that the black wind shirt surely had to be the root cause for all of the woes of the team. Right folks?

  • pghmountaineer

    Hop's. We have 1 player committed to basketball so far. 2 star prospect. No help as of yet.
    Not to worry though, Huggs is fixin it!
    It's good to see all of the problems from last year are fixed.

  • Dennis

    If this team can stay together for two to three years, I think they can make wvu a force once again on a national level. But, if players transfer or are dimissed from the team like the past couple of years, this program is in serious trouble and will need to be overhauled from the top down. Good Luck Mounties!!!

  • wv4evah

    many of the comments i see here remind me of the 'see no evil' attitude of fans of wvu football: oh well, it'll all work out. hey: how's that oliver luck thing working out for you?

    • Joe

      oh it's working out pretty well actually. got saved from the sinking ship of the big east, got a new baseball stadium, turned a profit this year, will see more revenue in the coming years.

  • Hop'sHip

    Does anyone know when the early signing period occurs? Is WVU expected to sign anyone? They could really use a shot blocker.

  • wvtd

    well, lets hope for a better year than last. good luck guys, go mountaineers.

  • j hicks

    Much better than last year so just wait a few games when they start playing better together. At times they look good and sometimes they look like a 25 to 3 run by the other team. Still like what I see. Only will get better.

  • SJ

    It's a great day to be a Hokie! Go VT!

  • pghmountaineer

    Good point Squad. Huggs will fix that.

  • squad

    the problem is that when our players individually have a bad game they seem to compound it by flipping out mentally. our team needs to develop mental toughness.