MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With Jaysean Paige nearly matching his career high by halftime, Eastern Kentucky was no match for No. 19 West Virginia.
The reserve guard scored all 17 of his points in 13 minutes of first-half action, and took only one shot thereafter, as the Mountaineers cruised 84-59 Monday night.
“When it’s going for me it’s going, and then it’s time to share the wealth,” said Paige, whose career best remained the 19 points against Stetson on Nov. 20.
“I’m not disappointed at all (about being shutout in the second half). That’s selfish. We won and I played well. If one guy scores in the first half, that opens up other guys to get in the lane. I don’t have to score to be a factor.”
Paige’s deference to teammates late in the game resonated with coach Bob Huggins, who hopes this squad is developing in the vein of last season’s Sweet 16 participant.
“A year ago the thing that made us who we are is that we were so unselfish. Everyone was in it for the good of the whole, and Jaysean was certainly a large part of that.”
In a matchup of Division I top-16 scoring teams, only West Virginia (10-1) flourished. Devin Williams finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Daxter Miles Jr. scored 12 and Jevon Carter 11.
JaVontae Hawkins scored 16 for Eastern Kentucky (8-6), which fell to 1-6 in road games and played without the injured Jarelle Reischel, the team’s leading scorer (19.8) and rebounder (7.9).
“(Reischel’s) back injury is pretty serious,” said Colonels coach Dan McHale. “We need him back. He’s having a fantastic year and not having him tonight really hurt us.”
During a 21-1 late-half run, Paige made a layup and four 3-pointers, holstering a make-believe pistol after a few of them. As West Virginia rolled to a 50-22 cushion, Esa Ahmad punctuated the dominance by driving the lane for a right-handed hammer-slam.
Paige sank six first-half field goals—one shy of what Eastern Kentucky managed as a team in its lowest-scoring half this season.
“We’ll see more of Jaysean if he stays out of foul trouble, and he’s a talent,” said Williams, who scored 11 second-half points as EKU shaded perimter attention toward Paige. “I pray every day the guards make shots, because it makes it easier for all of us.”
Colonels guard Jaylen Babb-Harrison added 15, including two 3s during a second-half flurry when EKU made six straight shots from deep.
West Virginia forced 18 turnovers and won the rebounding battle 37-27, leading to a 26-7 edge in second-chance points.
Eastern Kentucky’s McHale came away impressed: “I told Coach Huggins, I’ve watched a lot of college basketball and they are a Final Four-caliber team.”