Pressing for 50 turnovers, WVU settles for 34 in romp

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Reserve guard Teyvon Myers challenged teammates with a seemingly impossible mission before No. 15 West Virginia’s game against outmanned Western Carolina on Wednesday.

“Group chat, early in the morning, 8:30 a.m., and I said: ‘Fellas, let’s get 50 turnovers. Who’s with me?’ And everybody responded back, ‘Yeah, we’re with you,’” Myers said.

The Mountaineers didn’t hit that mark, though their pressure defense proved plenty aggressive in forcing 34 turnovers and holding the Catamounts to 26-percent shooting. The resulting 90-37 blowout represented the fewest points allowed by West Virginia in a decade.

BOX SCORE: West Virginia 90, Western Carolina 37

Esa Ahmad finished with 14 points and eight rebounds and Jevon Carter added 13 points and six steals for the Mountaineers (7-1), who entered as 34-point favorites and led by precisely that margin at halftime.

Elijah Macon added 11 points and Myers scored 10 for West Virginia, which piled up a 37-0 edge in points off turnovers.

Given the massive talent discrepancy, coach Bob Huggins didn’t view the lopsided score as proof his players were focused.

“We didn’t have much energy. But our guys watched the tape — they knew they were going to win. I actually thought we came out sluggish,” Huggins said.

If that was sluggish, the Catamounts (3-6) don’t want to see excited. They made only 13-of-50 shots from the floor overall and went scoreless for a stretch of 10:43 spanning both halves.

It was Western Carolina’s latest walloping after losing at Miami, Ohio State and Marquette by an average of 41 points.

“West Virginia could be the best one we’ve played yet because of that pressure,” said Catamounts guard Elijah Pughsley, who went scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting with five turnovers.

“They’re long and athletic. We didn’t give them our best punch today, but give power to them, respect to them. They’re a good team. Hopefully they go get the Big 12 championship and keep it going.”

Haboubacar Mutombo, Onno Steger and Adam Sleed paced the Catamounts with six points each.

After forcing a school-record 40 turnovers against Manhattan earlier this season, “Press Virginia” is greedy for more.

But 50 turnovers in a 40-minute game, is that possible?

“Yes,” said Macon. “With these guys, with this group? Yes.”

Said Myers: “We didn’t get it today, but look out for it — soon.”

Starting the game with seven straight points, West Virginia tacked on a 16-0 run and led 30-5 on Carter’s free throws after he was undercut by on a fast-break layup by Deriece Parks.

Daxter Miles hit a fall-away 3 at the halftime buzzer that stretched the lead to 46-12. That made West Virginia 7-of-14 from 3-point range at the break while Western Carolina was shooting 5-of-25 overall.

The Mountaineers made only 1-of-12 from 3 in the second half, though it hardly mattered with the game so out-of-hand. When the starters went to the bench, they cheered loudest for the defense being played by freshmen and walk-ons.

“We were pissed when they got to 30. We wanted to keep them to at least 25,” said Ahmad.

Yo, no Adrian

West Virginia’s leading scorer and rebounder, Nathan Adrian, finished with a season-low two points on only three shots and one board. Yet the bench compensated as 13 players scored for WVU.

Mountaineers guard Tarik Phillip finished with eight points, five assists and five steals despite clutching at a sore left thumb during several stoppages.

Yo, no Catamount

Hurting for a press-breaker, Western Carolina certainly missed point guard Devin Peterson, who stayed behind in Cullowhee, N.C., to focus on academics.

10 years ago

Western Carolina’s anemic output had reporters scouring past seasons for something comparable. The last time an opponent scored fewer than 37 points was Dec. 20, 2006, when WVU crushed The Citadel 63-36.

Charleston crowd

The game drew 8,384 to the Civic Center for WVU’s lone appearance in Charleston this season. That ends, of course, a 26-year run of the West Virginia-Marshall series in the capital city.

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