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Huggins: 3-point denial was key to upsetting Iowa State

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Though West Virginia broke the 100-point mark in a conference game for the first time in eight seasons, coach Bob Huggins was particularly proud of his team’s defense.

“This was the best, by far, we’ve been,” Huggins said after the Mountaineers whacked No. 11 Iowa State 102-77.

The Cyclones, in addition to being held eight points below their league-high scoring average, hit only 4-of-23 3-point shots after entering the night making nearly nine 3s per game. Those four equaled Iowa State’s lowest output of the season.

“We wanted to take the 3-ball away from them,” Huggins said. “When they’ve played well, they’ve made a bunch of 3s.”

Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim was 0-of-4 from deep and scored just six points, a startling decline from his record-setting 48-point outburst in Saturday’s win over TCU. He finished 1-of-9 from the floor with his lone basket coming on the opening possession.

“Did we let him get one?” Huggins joked. “We did a better job in transition defense, honestly. He scored a ton of points Saturday in transition.”

Remi Dibo, not typically regarded as West Virginia’s stopper on defense, matched up against Ejim on numerous possessions. “We just knew we couldn’t let him score 40 points on us. I think we did a great team effort on him.”

Though Ejim managed to pull down 12 rebounds, his 24-game streak of double-figures scoring ended as he came nowhere close to his conference-leading 19.6 average.

“That (48-point) game was one of a kind and a game like this is one of a kind,” Ejim said. “They did a great job defensively on me.

“There were some double-teams and stuff, but I just didn’t make any shots. … I knew it wasn’t falling for me, so I tried to grab some rebounds and impact the game in other ways. It just wasn’t my night. (WVU) made all the shots and I made none.”

Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said Ejim wasn’t alone in struggling: “Nobody played well.”

Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane was largely ineffective, producing 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting and committing five of Iowa State’s 14 turnovers—the second-most for the Cyclones this season. The Pittsburgh native had about 50 friends and family members in the bleachers, though they were drowned out by WVU fans booing Kane throughout the game.

“I didn’t pay the crowd no attention. I knew it was going to be like that—it was like at Marshall vs. West Virginia,” said Kane. “The fans are supposed to get loud, they’re supposed to try to rattle you and get in your head.

“We’re not making excuses—we got our tail kicked.”

Even Georges Niang’s team-high 17 points were tainted by six turnovers and the sophomore picking up five second-half fouls in less than 12 minutes.

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