MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The worst thing that happened to Jermaine Haley on Wednesday was pinning the ball against his leg in the final seconds of West Virginia’s 90-75 victory against Iowa State and turning it over after coach Bob Huggins gave him the OK to drive to the hoop.
“Yeah, Huggs gave me the nod to go score and go for 30, but I ended up losing it,” Haley said. “Guys were getting on me about that pretty hard after the game.”
It was perhaps the only time Haley didn’t connect against the Cyclones on a senior-less Senior Night in front of a school-reported 10,354 fans inside the WVU Coliseum.
Coming off a career-high 23 points in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma, the junior guard nearly surpassed that in the first half.
He scored on drives to the basket and offensive putbacks. Normally a hesitant 3-point shooter, Haley connected on 2-of-4 from behind the arc. It all led to 28 points — 20 in a first half that saw the Mountaineers jump out to a commanding 54-33 lead — as Haley finished 13-of-20 shooting from the floor.
“I don’t think I’ve ever taken 20 shots in a game before,” Haley said.
The short-handed Mountaineers aren’t afraid to run offense through the 6-foot-7 guard, who has scored 82 points over his last four games. His teammates wanted one more bucket Wednesday.
“Yeah, I really wanted him to get 30,” said forward Derek Culver, who recorded his seventh double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. “I think everyone was wanting him to go for it.”
Lamont West added his first career double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) to go with Culver, and the Mountaineers shot 47.8 percent (33-of-69) from the field — their best since Dec. 1 against Youngstown State.
The Mountaineers (12-18, 4-13) remained tied with Oklahoma State for last place in the Big 12 because the Cowboys upset Baylor hours later.
On Saturday, West Virginia visits Stillwater, with the winner claiming the ninth seed in the Big 12 tournament.
The bad news: West Virginia is 0-9 in true road games this season.
“If you want to know what we have to do, we have to win one,” Huggins said. “That’s pretty simple.”
Iowa State (20-10, 9-8) maintained its fifth-place spot in the league standings, but the Cyclones were beaten badly on the boards (44-34) and trailed on second-chance points (21-14) in their first game without leading scorer Marial Shayok, who suffered a foot injury Monday.
“Then the last 10 minutes weren’t good offensively or defensively in the first half,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “And that was obviously where we lost the game.”
Iowa State has lost five of seven in a stretch that has Prohm bewildered.
“Three weeks ago, the narrative on us was, ‘Man, we’re really talented, we space the floor, we share the ball.’ Now the narrative is, “Man, we’re soft.’ It’s been a tough three weeks.”
Haley was pure money in the first half.
His first three baskets showed much variety: A drive to the rim and banking it in, a coast-to-coast drive to the hoop before finishing it off by catching the ball in the low post and scoring.
His pace slowed in the second half, as the Mountaineers focused on running offense and holding the Cyclones in check as much as possible.
The game was a far cry from the 93-68 beating the Mountaineers took against the Cyclones on Jan. 30, in Ames.
“We’re a different team,” Huggins said. “We’re playing guys now that we didn’t play before. We’re a totally different team. We play a bunch of young guys that like each other and play well together and want to win.”