MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Forget those trap game worries.
West Virginia showed no hangover from its loss to No. 10 Wisconsin—and refused to look ahead to Thursday’s game at Missouri—by building a 27-point halftime lead on Loyola-Maryland and coasting to a 96-47 victory at the Coliseum.
“We know that we had no other choice but to come out and compete, and we did that,” said Remi Dibo, who scored a game-high 19 points off the bench. “They only lost by 10 (at UConn), so we thought we had a good team to play against today.”
Perhaps West Virginia (6-2) caught the Greyhounds (4-2) on an off night, but Monday’s game was a runaway after WVU jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first three minutes. Dibo led the Mountaineers to a 46-15 edge in bench scoring. The French forward made 5-of-7 shots from 3-point range—several of them uncontested—even though Loyola’s staff emphasized the need to defend the perimeter.
“You look at the scouting report and you know he’s a shooter,” said Greyhounds coach G.G. Smith. “But we just lost him in transition and he got way too many open looks.”
West Virginia made 13-of-22 from 3-point range, including 2-of-2 by Terry Henderson (16 points) and 3-of-4 by Nate Adrian (11 points). Kevin Noreen made his only long-distance jumper and shot 5-of-5 on his way to 13 points. Barely anyone noticed that the team’s top threats, Eron Harris and Juwan Staten, combining to shoot 6-of-23.
“We scored 96 points and Eron Harris wasn’t very good and Juwan didn’t score near as well as he’s been scoring,” said coach Bob Huggins. “It’s nice to be able to win like that without those two having some of their better games.”
Though Staten scored a season-low four points (14 below his average), the point guard hustled into the lane to grab a game-best 10 rebounds—part of West Virginia’s unbelievable 62-22 edge on the boards.
“When you get beat 62-22 on the boards it is embarrassing,” Smith said. “Our big men were slow to the ball. They beat us to every ball. They were by far the toughest and best rebounding team we will play this year.”
Loyola’s first-year coach may not have realized West Virginia out-rebounded only two of its previous seven opponents. For this game, at least, the Mountaineers were dominant on the glass as Adrian (nine rebounds), Noreen (eight) Devin Williams (seven), Harris (seven) and Brandon Watkins (six) were active on every missed shot.
There were plenty of those for Loyola, which made 33 percent from the floor (19-of-56) and 4-of-17 from deep. Dylon Cormier, the nation’s No. 2 scorer at 28.4 per game, was held to 11 points under close hounding from WVU’s Harris.
“He is averaging 28 points a game and took just seven shots in 32 minutes of play,” Smith said. “He needs to shoot the ball more.”
HARRIS COOLS OFF
WVU led 47-20 despite its leading scorer going 1-of-8 shooting in the first half. He made two 3-pointers after intermission and wound up 4-of-13 overall for 14 points.
“I used to get frustrated and when I started to miss shots and I’d put my head down,” Harris said. “But now I try to smile. I know what type of shooter I am and I know that people have bad nights. I just wanted to keep shooting until it makes.”
FREE THROWS FALLING
After making only 62 percent of its free throws this season—and just 6-of-14 in a 70-63 loss to Wisconsin—West Virginia sank 19-of-22 against Loyola. That included a string of 13 straight to open the game.
HUGGINS CLIMBS RANKS
After win No. 729 on Monday, Huggins stands tied for 16th all-time with Norm Stewart and Jerry Tarkanian.
“I’ve got great respect for Coach Stewart,” he said. “The job that he did at Missouri is just phenomenal. They have everything they have there to a large degree because of Norm Stewart. Their arena is absolutely state-of-the-art. It is one heck of a place and they have a great following.
“Tark has been like a grandfather or an uncle to me. When I was just a young coach, he kind of took me under his wing. He has been absolutely phenomenal to me, and has given me a lot of advice—both X’s and O-wise and about our business in general.”
Only 4,692 fans turned out for Monday night’s game, supplanting the Nov. 23 win over Presbyterian (5,067) as the smallest home crowd of the Huggins era.
“We’ve got great fans—there’s just 4,000 of them, that’s all,” Huggins said. “A lot of people have 16,000 of them. I’m happy with the people that came.”
Even with a team averaging better than 85 points per game, the atmosphere in the Coliseum has been lacking. Blame the holidays or a few non-descript opponents, but WVU fans have been slow to return after last season’s 13-19 record.
“I keep hearing this team’s exciting,” Huggins said. “It must not be exciting enough.”