West Virginia flashed a new team and a new philosophy to the country in winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic which culminated with a victory over Connecticut on Sunday.
On Wednesday, a road-weary Mountaineers team shook off some early jet lag and showed even bigger things to the Capitol City.
WVU’s new-found pressure defense squeezed a school-record 36 turnovers out of VMI which led to 41 points as the Mountaineers sprinted away with a 103-72 win over the Keydets on Wednesday night.
A healthy crowd of 8,102 was on hand at the Charleston Civic Center.
West Virginia was playing its first game as a ranked team and looked every bit the part on Wednesday, using a 20-8 run at the end of the first half to push its lead to 53-35 at the break.
There was no Puerto Rico hangover.
“That was something we were really trying to fight against,” WVU point guard Juwan Staten said. “It’s easy when you get a win like that, ranked, to come in here against a lesser opponent and play down to the level of competition, which we were doing early. But coach stayed in our heads, our veterans stayed on everybody, and we had to pick it up.”
Staten held the Mountaineers (6-0) together early and finished with 17 points, six assists, and four steals as WVU collected 26 thefts all together, tying a school mark.
Freshman Jevon Carter meanwhile had the best game of his young Mountaineer career, accumulating a game-best 28 points and five steals off the bench, racking up 20 of those points in the first half.
It was the freshman’s career high, besting the 15 points he scored against Boston College in Puerto Rico and he did it while hitting a cool 12 of 14 shots from the floor.
“Jevon made shots all summer, he made shots in practice, he just didn’t make any in a game for a while,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “You’re trying to figure out what’s a good shot and what’s not a good shot — and [fellow freshman Daxter Miles] is going to make shots — and they can bounce it and they can pass it. Their game is so much more multidimensional than some of the guys we’ve had in the past.”
Miles added 12 points for WVU as did Tarik Phillip.
Jonathon Holton also reached double figures, scoring 13 points to go along with a team-best seven rebounds.
Carter’s exploits were just part of a bench effort that accounted for 52 points, further illustrating the Mountaineers’ depth.
Carter was 3 for 4 from 3-point range but also showed the ability to get to the rim as well, something he said VMI was giving him.
“It started with the older guys,” Carter said. “They came in, took us right under their wing, made us feel at home, so we didn’t have any problem adjusting to them.”
VMI (2-3) play an up-tempo style itself, but the Keydets couldn’t find nearly the same success as WVU’s press did.
While West Virginia was wreaking havoc on VMI’s offense, the Mountaineers committed just nine turnovers of their own including only three in the opening 20 minutes compared to 19 for VMI.
The 3-point line was about the only thing that kept the game from getting even further away from VMI as the Keydets cashed in on 11 shots from distance with seven coming in the second half.
Former Hedgesville standout Q.J. Peterson led the Keydets with 13 points but also turned it over 11 times.
Craig Hinton had 10 points off the bench for VMI.
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