Turnovers costly for Mountaineers in 71-64 loss at No. 6 Iowa State

West Virginia did a lot of things well to hang with No. 6 Iowa State for 30-plus minutes Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.

Ultimately, the Mountaineers’ inability to get enough shots at the basket as a result of a season-high 23 turnovers prevented them from doing something they have yet to this season in 11 tries — win away from home.

The Cyclones had a 29-8 advantage in points off turnovers and pulled away late for a 71-64 victory to remain in the thick of the Big 12 Conference regular season race.

“We get to a situation where we can kind of grind the game down the stretch and we just lacked some poise in certain situations,” West Virginia interim head coach Josh Eilert said. “Going into the game, the key was pretty obvious for anybody that watches any Iowa State game — it was going to be taking care of the ball. With 23 turnovers and to give up 29 points, you’re not going to win in Hilton. It’s crazy that it was a seven-point game looking at those numbers.”

Trailing 40-30 at halftime, West Virginia (9-18, 4-10) cut that margin in half less than 3 minutes into the second half when Kerr Kriisa hit a three-pointer to trim the Cyclones’ advantage to 42-37. 

A triple from fellow WVU guard Noah Farrakhan with 13:51 to play again had the Mountaineers facing a five-point deficit and marked the start of an 11-2 spurt that gave the visitors their only second-half lead.

Also during that stretch, RaeQuan Battle made one of his two baskets and Josiah Harris accounted for a conventional three-point play that tied the game at 48 with 12:14 left.

Although the Mountaineers didn’t score again for 3-plus minutes, when they did, a Kobe Johnson trey left West Virginia with a 51-50 lead at the 9:05 mark.

From that point forward, however, WVU went scoreless for more than 6 minutes, during which time the Mountaineers had seven turnovers and missed four shots until a Kriisa triple with 2:59 remaining cut Iowa State’s lead to 64-54.

After taking its only second-half lead, West Virginia attempted only one field goal on its next six possessions and committed a turnover on five consecutive trips at one point. It was during that stretch when Iowa State (21-6, 10-4) got a bucket from Tre King and then four straight points from Robert Jones as well as two Tamin Lipsey free throws to go in front by seven points with 6:50 to play.

“We got to a point where everything dried up on us and we threw the ball away,” Eilert said. “That was the name of the game.”

Quinn Slazinski made three free throws with 2:12 to play to allow WVU to trail 67-59, but Slazinski’s three with 48 seconds remaining was the only time the Mountaineers got closer than that the rest of the way — and it marked the final scoring play.

Early threes from Kriisa, Battle and Slazinski helped stake West Virginia to an 11-2 lead, but the benefits of that strong start were short-lived and the Cyclones went in front for the first time on Keshon Gilbert’s two free throws that made it 13-12.

Jackson Paveletzke accounted for five straight points with a triple and his three Iowa State to go on top 29-21. Robert Jones’ layup off a WVU turnover made it a double-digit margin for the first time 2:49 before halftime at 37-26.

Turnovers were equally problematic for the Mountaineers in each half, with the visitors totaling 11 in the opening half and 12 over the final 20 minutes.

“It might feel like you have a driving angle, but you get behind one guy and there’s another two right behind them,” Eilert said. “Critical errors and we tried to force it through pressure and force it through a loaded up defense, which killed us. That was probably the key to it, too. We lacked a little poise in that regard.”

West Virginia shot better than Iowa State by making nearly 48 percent of its field-goal attempts to the Cyclones’ 45 percent, but the home team attempted 14 more shots thanks in large part to 10 fewer turnovers.

Johnson made 5-of-7 shots and tied Kriisa for team-high scoring honors with 12 points. It marks the most points Johnson has ever scored in a Big 12 game.

“That’s the type of production I kind of thought we’d get night in and night out,” Eilert said. 

Slazinski followed with 11 and Edwards scored 10 on only five field-goal attempts, though he and Kriisa both had five turnovers.

“Even when we were trying to go high low and eliminate the double team, it was a heavy dig situation and they were all over him,” Eilert said. “He has to keep his composure and slow down. The game has to slow down for everybody and take what the defense gives us.”

Battle scored nine points and made only 2-of-11 shots. In seven conference road games, Battle is averaging nine points and has made 21-of-74 field-goal attempts and 6-of-30 threes.

“He hasn’t played nearly as well on the road as he does at home. Whether that’s a mindset thing, we have to get to the bottom of it,” Eilert said.

Lipsey led all players with 14 points and Curtis Jones added 12. Paveletzke scored nine and a trio of Cyclones — King, Gilbert and Robert Jones — finished with eight apiece.





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