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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  • 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.

  • Charles

    Increase number of fouls to foul out my bad

  • pghmountaineer

    Don't worry. Huggs said "I'll fix it". We'll be just fine.

    • derek

      Looks to me he has recruited well. These kids play together like a team. Give me break they will gel watch out there is alot of talent onboard.

    • Charles

      Been fixin for a while. 1-8 the last 9. Then blow a 17 point lead. It was bad enough that I was in hokie land. My big butt hadn't moved that fast in a while after Adrian's air 3.

  • Charles

    Now we have two trucks. Not good. Pass the ball. The only one that passes, passed it everywhere but to the guys in blue and gold. This team has great potential, and hopefully will get better together. Looks like everyone gets along and they seem enthusiastic. Not really any back talk to Huggs, so it looks like they are wanting to listen and learn. Once they realize they don't have to putt it all on their shoulders,they should be fine. How bout they increase the number of fouls to 6,7 or 8, if the rule change is gonna affect play that much. Just a thought.

  • Old Coach

    I do not like new system... These young man cannot play basketball like they have in the past.... If a team cannot make all the free throws they lose .... That's not what I call real basketball.... I say ESPN Who Televise most of the games does not like it.... Well the old coach don't like it

    • scott

      its not a new system. its enforcing rules that have been in existence since the 50's. it takes basketball back to the way it was in the 70's and 80's imo. who cares what ESPN likes.

  • Low Rider

    Staten did his best Truck Bryant impersonation today. Instead of stopping and shooting 10 ft. jump shots like he did in the last game, he tried to force layups, getting several blocked, leading to run outs. Tech had 13 blocks, WVU had 1.

    Team still plagued by poor shooting (35%) from the floor, and 65% from the line. Staten and Harris were 7-29 today. There is no way WVU can win with stats like that.

    I think this loss will be an RPI killer later in the year. Tech won 4 ACC games last year, and lost to "South Carolina Upstate" last weekend, whoever they are?

    We have some young players with potential, but they don't play a dime's worth of defense. To give up 87 points to a bad Hokie team is pathetic.

    • Art in Ohio

      I was shocked to see one of our guards go to the basket against a seven footer and try a lay up. Nothing has changed from last year. I turned off the TV and walked the dog.

  • Jack

    Seems like the football and basketball teams have trouble finishing the games.

  • richard

    going to be a long season.

    • RJ

      Most definitely! All you hear from the basketball and football coaches are EXCUSES! Paying big bucks but no return but we always have EXCUSES!!!! Classic excuse is we are YOUNG!!! Been young for years, when are the football and basketball programs going to get mature?

    • wvtd

      I am afraid you are right

  • leroy j gibbs

    They still look better than last year's team .I think they Will be ok