CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Cognizant of past poor performances inside the Charleston Civic Center, Devin Williams wrestled for a ball in the lane went up for a new, emphatic memory.
The bulky forward threw down a two-handed dunk over several James Madison defenders and bounded away, yelling and flexing and looking temporarily possessed as West Virginia pulled away for a 86-73 victory on Monday night.
Williams laughed off the signature moment of his 19-point, 10-rebound game.
“James Madison was making their last push and we had to make our last stand, so I just got caught up in the game,” he said. “Was just out there having fun with my guys and hearing the crowd go crazy because we’re out there giving effort and going hard.”
The Mountaineers (2-0), playing a home game three hours from campus, also got 19 points from Jevon Carter and forced 19 turnovers.
Though Williams has yet to lose at the Civic Center in five appearances, his previous four-game averages were a middling four points and four rebounds.
“I hadn’t really played well here, so that dunk was kind of a breakthrough moment,” he said after making 6-of-9 shots.
A 42-31 rebounding edge proved crucial for West Virginia (2-0), with Williams and Jonathan Holton (12 points and 12 rebounds) repeating their double-doubles from the season opener.
“Devin was Devin. He went and got it for us,” said coach Bob Huggins.
James Madison (1-1) missed power forward Yohanny Dalembert—who’s lost three weeks to a knee injury—yet provided a rugged challenge.
“That’s my type of game,” Williams said. “They got a couple foreigners on the team, so they got a little chippy. But it’s all in the game. I didn’t feel like I was being harmed in any way. It was just good, physical aggressive basketball.”
The Dukes sufficiently navigated West Virginia’s press early before the defensive tenacity took effect during the second half.
“They got a lot of baskets in the lane,” said JMU coach Matt Brady. “I’m not sure that, if we had five more days to prepare, we would’ve had a great answer for how big, fast and athletic West Virginia is. I think we’ve got a really fun, really talented group, though, and we’re excited for what we have in front of us.”
Sixth man Shakir Brown scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half for James Madison, which had only eight turnovers at the break and trailed 48-38. The Dukes received strong bench play from Dimitrij Cabarkapa (13 points) and Winston Grays (12 points) but got no closer than eight in the second half.
Brown was 8-of-8 at the foul line and 3-of-7 from deep, including a high-arching, catch-and-shoot bomb from the left corner.
“These guys made shots we haven’t had guys make against us in a while. Some hard shots,” Huggins said. “That shot (Brown) made from the corner was a big-time shot. Big-time.”
Still the Dukes made only 41 percent overall and 9-of-28 from 3-point range. Preseason All-Colonial guard Ron Curry was frustrated into 3-of-9 shooting, received a first-half technical and played the final 18 minutes with four fouls. One of his baskets was a 3 with 1:37 left after WVU stretched its margin to 17 points.