MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Daxter Miles’ 23-point outburst began with an offensive rebound, the kind of tenacity No. 10 West Virginia has been seeking from its most athletic guard.
He finished with six offensive boards and the Mountaineers used a dominant rebounding effort to pummel No. 24 Iowa State 87-76 on Friday night in the regular-season finale.
“Well, that’s been a process,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, who joked before the game about Miles typically avoiding the lane as if there’s infectious disease. “I’ve been wearing him out about it. We play three guards and he has to be the guy to help rebound.”
Senior Night honoree Nathan Adrian scored 16 points as West Virginia (24-7, 12-6 Big 12) secured the No. 2 seed in next week’s conference tournament.
Point guard Jevon Carter contributed 13 points and four assists and was among three players to grab eight rebounds for West Virginia, which exploited the league’s softest rebounding team 48-29. Fellow guard Tarik Phillip, another senior, combined eight rebounds with a career-best 10 assists.
It was a sweet bounce-back from the Mountaineers being out-rebounded by 20 in Monday’s loss at Baylor.
“Against Baylor we got killed on the glass,” Carter said. “We wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again.”
Naz Mitrou-Long scored 22 points for Iowa State (20-10, 12-6 Big 12) which came in having won six of its last seven. After beginning the weekend alone in second place, the Cyclones could slip to the Big 12 tournament’s No. 4 seed if Baylor beats Texas on Saturday.
They shot only 38 percent from floor — including 30 percent after halftime — when a one-point deficit ballooned to 17.
“I’ll have to look at the tape to see if we really stayed in our actions enough or if we kind of bailed on it and went one-on-one a little bit,” said Iowa State coach Steve Prohm. “If you shoot 38 percent and get out-rebounded by 20, that’s not good enough to win on the road.”
Monte Morris and Deonte Burton finished 17 points each and Matt Thomas added 14, but the Cyclones were never in it after West Virginia’s 12-0 run opened up a 65-51 lead.
During that second-half stretch, in which six consecutive fouls went against Iowa State, Prohm drew a technical when no foul was called on one of West Virginia center Sagaba Konate’s three blocks.
Though “Press Virginia” didn’t produce an avalanche of turnovers — WVU actually committed one more (15) than the visitors — Iowa State felt the frustration.
“Even though we didn’t turn them over as much, they had to work,” Huggins said. “I think at the end a lot of their shots were short, and that’s generally a sign that you’ve got tired legs.”
Miles scored 14 points by halftime, a breakout showing for the junior who averaged about 6 points during the previous 14 games.
“Yeah, I would like to do this every night,” said Miles, who finished 4 of 8 from 3-point range. “It’s been a while since I felt the good. I was just feeding off the momentum.”
At the end of a first half in which the teams combined to shoot 15-of-29 on 3s, Morris sank a 24-footer that pulled Iowa State to within 43-42.
Mitrou-Long, the Big 12 leader in 3-point baskets, made 5-of-7 from deep in the opening half, but he missed his next five straight shots and didn’t score again until 7:10 remained in the game.
Long time coming
West Virginia started its five departing seniors, including walk-on guard James Long who sank a 3-pointer on the opening possession.
“It wasn’t a play for me or anything,” he said. “I was just in the corner on a pick-and-roll play, and Tarik told me if I was open he was going to hit me, so shoot it.”
Despite having gone scoreless since a Dec. 17 game against Manhattan, there was no hesitation from Long, who said he and Adrian emphasize corner shots during their practice sessions.
“I’m just grateful Tarik hit me and I had some space. It made it a super-special night.”
Yet as the crowd roared, Long afforded Thomas too much room on defense, resulting in a tying 3.
“All I was thinking was, ‘Don’t make Huggs upset, just play hard,'” Long said. “I’m so thankful for Huggs and everything he’s done for me. I could talk all day about how much I respect him.”
It sounded mutual when the coach addressed the postgame media.
“James has meant so much to this program, with his work ethic and just dragging guys into the gym with him,” Huggins said. “And every recruit that we’ve brought on campus, he’s been involved. He believes in West Virginia University an dies a great job selling it.”
Prohm described his technical as a regrettable “heat-of-the-moment play,” not some motivational tactic. It came amid a Cyclones’ 3-of-16 shooting drought.
“I shouldn’t get that. I apologize,” Prohm said, admitting that West Virginia’s defense even affected him. “They did what they wanted to do from the standpoint that they frustrate you. (The officials) came over and told me it was a clean play.”
Prohm fell to 0-4 against the Mountaineers in his two seasons.
Notes, numbers, etc
The Cyclones finished 13-of-31 from 3-point range and 10-of-29 from inside the arc. “We wanted to get out on them, turn them into a driving team,” Carter said. … Mountaineers forward Esa Ahmad, sidelined the past three games by a lower back strain, had five points in 11 minutes. … Iowa State guard Donovan Jackson, who banged his head on a fall Tuesday night against Oklahoma State, played five minutes and went scoreless.