MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Lamont West joked beforehand that No. 18 West Virginia had to “unpack” the pack line defense of No. 15 Virginia. His 22 points, capped by two tiebreaking baskets late in the game, did just that as the Mountaineers pulled out a 68-61 win Tuesday night.
“We definitely needed this one,” West said. “They were the higher-ranked team, and I feel like if we do what the coaches tell us to do we can beat anybody in the country.”
With West lending such heavy support to All-American candidate Jevon Carter, that statement may prove prophetic. Carter was brilliant again, scoring 17 of his 23 points in the second half and finishing with 10 rebounds and seven assists for West Virginia (8-1), which was throttled by Texas A&M in its only previous game against a ranked team.
“Now we know how to win a big game,” he said.
Devon Hall finished with 19 points and six assists for Virginia (8-1), who stayed close thanks to Kyle Guy scoring all 18 of his points during a second-half outburst.
Guy started 0-of-6 from the floor and went scoreless until 13:52 remained in the game before making three consecutive 3-pointers during a 64-second span to put the Cavaliers ahead 41-39.
“Kyle’s always a shot away from getting it going,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett. “He maybe had a couple rushed shots in the first half, but he had some real clean looks in the second half.”
While the Cavaliers committed 15 turnovers — still shy of the number West Virginia is accustomed to forcing — two by point guard Ty Jerome in the final 1:28 were costly. With his team down by a bucket, Jerome was called for traveling in a corner trap, and on the next possession he tried to find Guy for a 3 but had his pass intercepted by Daxter Miles.
Miles scored 12 points as West Virginia’s big three provided 57 of the team’s 68 points.
The Mountaineers shot 42 percent overall and got 10 of their 21 baskets from 3-point range.
Virginia shot 41.3 percent from the floor, including 9-of-23 from deep, but made only one basket over the final 4:50.
“We played well enough to have a chance but not well enough to come away with win in this setting against that kind of intensity and pressure,” Bennett said.
West more than doubled his scoring average and came within a point of his career high. His timing was clutch, too, with a 3-pointer that put West Virginia ahead 54-51 and a midrange jumper that broke a 56-all tie.
“He had a hell of a game,” Miles said. “We’re going to need him to play like that and hit shots.”
After several seasons of struggling at the foul line, the Mountaineers may have turned a corner. They hit 16-of-18 free throws after entering the game at 74 percent.
West Virginia, after leading for more than 17 minutes in the opening half, settled for a 29-26 lead at the break. Hall hit a 3-pointer and De’Andre Hunter made two free throws after being fouled on a scramble with 0.7 seconds left.
Not much inside
West Virginia won despite a season-low eight points in the paint, struggling to dent the Cavaliers’ sagging man defense.
Center Sagaba Konate was shut out on four missed shots, though he contributed with eight rebounds and two blocks.
Guy gets hot
Constantly leading defenders through a series of multiple screens, Guy finished 6-of-17 overall. His damage was contained to a spectacular nine-minute stretch when he made 6-of-8 from 3-point range.
“I don’t know how he makes some of the shots he makes. It’s like he’s shooing before he even gets the ball,” West said. “He never stops running, so it’s extra-tiring trying to keep up with him. At first we tried to run through (the screens), but after he started hitting, we just said forget it and switch it.”
While praising his defenders’ early emphasis Guy, Huggins was flummoxed by the space given Virginia’s top scorer in the second-half.
“He’s not a good shooter, he’s a great shooter,” Huggins said, “and for some reason we stopped guarding him.”
Heavy minutes for WVU starters
Normally a wearing-down weapon, Press Virginia’s depth didn’t come to fruition Tuesday night. After each starter played 30-plus minutes — including a full 40 by Carter — Huggins said he was worried his reserves weren’t savvy enough to guard Virginia’s precise halfcourt offense.
“They run good stuff, really good stuff,” Huggins said. “We were getting screened and then we put JC on a guy and he didn’t get screened, because he know what he’s supposed to be doing.”
Notes and numbers
West Virginia averaged 93 points during its previous seven wins. … In a pregame ceremony, the Mountaineers recognized Carter for becoming the school’s career steals leader. … West Virginia took a 10-9 lead in the all-time series. After playing for three consecutive years, the teams aren’t slated to meet next season, when the ACC expands its schedule to 20 conference games. … Attendance fell short of a sellout yet drew a season-high 12,816.
Field of unbeatens shrink
Virginia’s loss left 10 unbeaten teams in Division I.
Two of those are Big 12 foes Kansas and TCU, while the others include: Duke, Villanova, Florida State, Miami, Georgetown, Arizona State, Mississippi State and Valparaiso.
Musket claims new victim
While Bennett appreciated his first experience of the rowdy environment at the WVU Coliseum, he “wasn’t quite ready for the gunshot” from the Mountaineer mascot’s musket.
“That surprised me,” Bennett said. “I was talking to the guys and ’Boom!’ there it goes.”