Led by Nathan Adrian’s career-best 23 points, No. 7 West Virginia sent Iowa State’s sellout crowd home early.
Benefiting from some fortunate first-half bounces, the Mountaineers turned dominant late in a 85-72 win Tuesday night in Ames, Iowa. They claimed sole possession of third place in the league, remaining two games behind Baylor and Kansas, who meet Wednesday night.
“This keeps us in the hunt,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “It keeps us relevant in terms of the regular-season championship.”
Reserve guard Tarik Phillip added 15 points and Esa Ahmad scored 14 for the Mountaineers (18-4, 6-3 Big 12), who had six players score eight or more.
Though Matt Thomas’s 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range led to 19 points for Iowa State (13-8, 5-4), offensive catalyst Monte Morris was limited to eight points on 4-of-14 shooting with only two assists.
While West Virginia’s leading scorer Jevon Carter finished with only four points, he led the defensive charge on Morris, which often included traps. When Iowa State turned to forward Deonte Burton as a facilitator, he scored 11 points and dished out 10 assists but also committed five of the Cyclones’ 16 turnovers.
In the latest blow to so-called “Hilton Magic,” Iowa State suffered its third home loss in a season for the first time since 2011.
After shooting 56 percent in the opening half, the Cyclones tailed off to 28 percent in the second half.
“I don’t think there were a ton of contested shots,” said Iowa State coach Steve Prohm. “I thought we had some open 3s and layups that we (typically) make.”
Adrian made 7-of-10 shots in eclipsing his biggest output since scoring 22 in a Jan. 10 upset of Baylor. The senior forward grabbed 11 rebounds for his second career double-double.
While West Virginia never trailed during the final 37 minutes, the margin was only 56-52 before Adrian hit a corner 3 with 10:22 left. That started the Mountaineers on a 14-3 spurt.
“Nate’s been a heck of a player,” Huggins said. “It’s not easy to be on the front of that press. How many 6-9 guys can sit down and stay in front of Monte Morris and the people he stays in front of?
“And when you think that’s the best thing he does, he goes out and gets you double-figure rebounds and scores 23 points.”
The Big 12 leaders in 3-point attempts, Iowa State made 10-of-26, but West Virginia countered by going 10-of-21 from deep. That including back-to-back banked-in 3s by reserve guard Beetle Bolden during a brief first-half appearance. Moments later, Daxter Miles banked home another 3 that had the Cyclones crowd groaning.
“They made them, so they count,” Prohm said. “You’ve got to just keep playing.”
Said Huggins: “Sometimes it’s good to be lucky.”
After West Virginia bolted to a 21-9 lead, the game tightened up to 44-40 at halftime, with Adrian patiently pump-faking before an 18-foot buzzer-beater.
The deeper Mountaineers held their ground throughout thanks to a 35-20 edge in bench scoring, and the normally electric arena revealed several thousand empty seats in the final 2 minutes.
Matching up against Iowa State’s spread-out shooters, Huggins used a four-guard lineup featuring Carter, Phillip, Bolden and Teyvon Myers for a few minutes late in the first half.
Bolden scored eight points in 5 minutes, more action than he had seen cumulatively in Big 12 play. Fellow freshman Chase Harler’s 3 minutes marked his first action since garbage time against Baylor.
Conversely, WVU’s big men were limited. Starter Elijah Macon and Brandon Watkins combined for zero points in nine minutes. (Macon had an uncontested dunk pop out when the net snapped.) Freshman Sagaba Konate carried the mantle inside with four points and four boards in 13 minutes.
Quiet night for Morris
Morris had scored 30 at Oklahoma, another 23 against Kansas and was coming off a 25-point performance Saturday at Vanderbilt. But the senior All-American candidate struggled from the opening possession when he coughed up the ball to a Carter-Adrian double-team at midcourt.
“I really believe that JC is as good a defensive guard as there is in a country,” Huggins said. “He doesn’t get the national acclaim for whatever reason.”
Notes, numbers, etc.
The 13-point margin marked Iowa State’s most lopsided loss at Hilton Coliseum since January 2010, when Kansas won 84-61. The Cyclones hadn’t lost by double-digits at home since February 2013 when the Jayhawks pulled away 108-96 in overtime.
Iowa State was averaging 10 turnovers this season, sixth-fewest in Division I. Cyclones guard Naz Mitrou-Long fouled out with 10 points after matching his career-high of five turnovers.
Against the RPI top 50, West Virginia improved to 5-1 while Iowa State fell to 2-7.