Recently victimized by a string of second-half collapses, No. 15 West Virginia began breaking down much earlier Wednesday night.
Iowa State, the last-place team in the Big 12, rekindled some Hilton Magic and used 62-percent shooting to bury the Mountaineers 93-77 in Ames, Iowa.
“We don’t guard. We don’t have any pride in guarding,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins, whose team has lost three consecutive games and five of six.
“These guys have single-handedly destroyed Press Virginia. We can’t guard anybody.”
Forced into sharing point guard duties, Iowa State’s Donovan Jackson and Lindell Wigginton should’ve looked uncomfortable. Instead they led the ambush.
Jackson scored 25, Wigginton poured in 22, and the Cyclones (12-9, 3-6) played inspired basketball without point guard Nick Weiler-Babb.
“We were just flowing. The offense was coming easy,” said Jackson, who scored 17 in the first half. “Everybody was sharing that ball.”
A series of uncontested jumpers led to Iowa State sinking 10-of-18 from 3. Paired with 43 points in the paint, they exploited stunning defensive lapses for the Mountaineers (16-6, 5-4), who had surrendered more than 93 points only once during Huggins’ 11 seasons coaching his alma mater.
Press Virginia forced only eight turnovers, 11 below its season average, despite Iowa State missing its primary ballhandler.
Jevon Carter had 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for West Virginia, which was aiming to win at Hilton Coliseum for a third straight year.
Forward Esa Ahmad joined the starting five for the first time this season and had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, regaining his touch after back-to-back scoreless games. Center Sagaba Konate scored 17 too, though West Virginia trailed throughout and never drew closer than 10 points in the final 13 minutes.
The visitors shot only 35 percent after halftime, negating any glimmer of a comeback.
“Iowa State ran to score. We trotted,” Huggins said. “We’re not tough enough to sustain anything.”
Unlike recent losses against Texas Tech, Kansas and Kentucky — in which West Virginia saw huge leads vanish against quality opponents — this game was rarely competitive.
The Cyclones entered with a 114 RPI and had lost four home games by an average of 15 points. Yet they also had dominated then-No. 8 Texas Tech.
“We’ve got two teams — the varsity team and the JV team — and we need the varsity team a lot more,” joked Iowa State coach Steve Prohm about that split persona.
Cameron Lard navigated foul trouble to produce 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Solomon Young had 14 points and 10 rebounds as the Cyclones fought with renewed toughness.
“Those guys were terrific. They competed,” Prohm said.
Smarting from a 68-45 loss to Tennessee on Saturday that marked its lowest scoring output since 1959, Iowa State responded with a blistering first-half performance. It shot 67 percent and made 7-of-11 3s while streaking out to a 53-43 lead.
WVU hadn’t surrendered that many points in a half since 2001.
“These guys have single-handedly destroyed Press Virginia. We can’t guard anybody.” — Bob Huggins
Jackson made 6-of-10 from 3-point range and added seven assists, while the freshman Wigginton finished 3-of-5 from deep with five assists.
“Our backs were against the wall and we responded,” said Jackson of the four-day span since being embarrassed by the Vols. “We needed one like this. It tests our man character when we get blown out the gym.”
Now it’s the character of West Virginia players being tested.
“The ones who don’t want to compete, then I need to find them somewhere else to go,” Huggins said. “It’s that simple.”
Trailing 25-11 after Iowa State opened 10-of-13 from the field, West Virginia used an 18-4 run to pull even. But then came a 24-11 counterpunch as the Cyclones surged ahead for good.
West Virginia also played minus a backcourt starter as Daxter Miles became a late scratch due to illness.
“For those of you out there who think we didn’t need Dax, we need Dax. Dax gives us a little bit more athleticism,” Huggins said.
Numbers, notes, etc.
The only time a Huggins-coached WVU team allowed more points? That 98-95 triple-overtime loss at Pitt in 2010. … The Mountaineers came in averaging 9.1 steals per game (seventh-most in the nation) and left with only two. … Expected to have a rebounding disadvantage, Iowa State stalemated that category at 32-all. … Prohm leaned heavily on his starters, who played 175 out of a possible 200 minutes.
“He’s a great defender. I wanted to go up against him because I want to test where I’m at.” — Iowa State freshman Lindell Wigginton after facing Jevon Carter.
“When you’re making shots things look great, and when you’re missing shots the world’s ending.” — Cyclones coach Steve Prohm
“We’re going fly back home, watch a bunch of tape and figure out how we’re going to get things fixed.” — WVU’s Huggins
After slipping two games back of Big 12 leader Kansas at the midpoint of the round-robin, the Mountaineers host Kansas State on Saturday.