Jevon Carter sank the go-ahead 3-pointer with 38 seconds left and No. 23 West Virginia’s relentless press erased a 16-point deficit to beat Missouri 83-79 in Sunday night’s title game of the AdvoCare Invitational.
Carter scored 20 of his 29 points during the second half, turning up the intensity over the final 7:16 when the Mountaineers (6-1) closed the game on a 32-11 run.
The point guard and tournament MVP had 11 points, four steals and an assist during that fateful stretch, which began with Carter reflexively catching an inbounds pass fired into his midsection by Mizzou’s Jordan Geist, trying to avoid a five-second violation. Carter turned that steal into a breakaway layup that energized his team and lit the comeback candle.
“I just told them no matter how much time is left on the clock, just believe we can win this game,” he said.
His pull-up 3-pointer over Geist that sent WVU ahead 77-75 made Carter 5-of-9 from deep, and he added two free throws with 3 seconds left that clinched the win.
Carter’s grittiness in the clutch coincided with perhaps the most complete game ever by his senior backcourt mate Daxter Miles who finished with 26 points, five rebounds and four steals. Miles scored 11 points in the decisive spurt as West Virginia won its sixth straight game. A career 58-percent foul shooter, Miles hit 14-of-15 free throws and the Mountaineers made 31-of-35 overall.
“What I was really happy about — and I’ve been on JC and Dax a lot — that it’s your team,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “Daxter Miles finally came out. He played now.”
Jordan Barnett finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead Missouri (5-2), which lost despite a massive 47-31 rebounding edge and finishing plus-16 in second-chance points. Kassius Robertson and Kevin Puryear scored 13 each for the Tigers.
“We just kept thinking, we got to find a way, we can’t quit, we can’t give up,” Barnett said. “Build such a big lead and it all goes away so fast. This one hurts.”
Leading 68-52 at the 8 minute mark, Missouri looked primed to end their 18-game losing streak versus ranked opponents and leave Lake Buena Vista, Fla., as tournament champions. But then it committed nine of its 20 turnovers during West Virginia’s comeback and made only one basket during the final 5:54.
“They kind of pulled back a little bit and got a little conservative, and that’s a bad thing to do against pressure, because that pressure just comes at you,” Huggins said. “You get afraid to make a mistake but we really made some plays.”
Foul trouble haunted both teams throughout. Missouri was whistled for 26 fouls and West Virginia committed 21, several of which left Huggins wide-eyed and clutching his head in the coach’s box.
Carter, after starting the game making three consecutive 3s, missed his next four shots and picked up his third foul on a driving push-off just 1:12 before halftime.
Foul frustration got the best of Sagaba Konate. After picking up his fourth foul with 4:59 remaining, West Virginia’s center drew a technical while walking to the bench and was disqualified.
Missouri’s Jontay Porter collected nine points, nine rebounds and five blocks before fouling out with 1:28 left as he lunged for an offensive rebound.
Geist also picked up his fifth foul in the closing seconds, leaving with eight points, six rebounds, four assists but also four turnovers.