By Ryan Decker, Originally written for West Virginia Illustrated
MORGANTOWN – Eleventh-ranked West Virginia (10-1) entered Tuesday night’s ball game leading the nation in steals and turnovers forced per game, as well as being first in the NCAA with a +15.4 turnover margin.
Press Virginia did their best to keep those numbers up against Radford (4-7), forcing a total of 29 turnovers, including 21 in the first half.
A few days after showing up at the WVU Children’s Hospital in the season of giving, the Mountaineers did a lot of taking against the Highlanders, using those turnovers to fuel an 84-57 victory inside the Coliseum.
“We missed about five layups; that slows everyone down missing five layups,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins told WVi sideline reporter Amanda Mazey at halftime. “We’ve got to do a better job finishing around the rim.”
Press Virginia forced six turnovers in the first four minutes of action, two of which were violations against the Highlanders not being able to get the ball in bounds quick enough.
The second of those violations led to the possession that resulted in wide open 3-pointer by Esa Ahmad. Ahmad led all scorers with 17 points.
Nathan Adrian knocked in a shot from behind the arch next time down the court for WVU, increasing the Mountaineer lead to 15-8 five minutes in.
Radford kept the deficit at single digits by hitting a trio of three balls early on.
Things got sloppy for the Mountaineers in the middle part of the opening half.
West Virginia missed four shots from point-blank range, and also committed four turnovers.
Luckily for WVU, though, Radford couldn’t fully take advantage of the sloppiness, and once Huggins’ club corrected its mistakes, they began to show why they’re the 11th ranked team in the country, especially on the defensive end.
The highlight of the first half came off of a steal by Jevon Carter. Carter ripped the ball right from the Radford ball handler, threw a pass up court to a streaking Tarik Phillip, who then dished a behind the back bounce pass to Carter for the layup.
This took place during the middle of a lengthy 23-0 run over a 7:35 span in which the Highlanders failed to score. Radford’s Christian Lutete finally got the Highlanders back on the board with less than three minutes to go, but even with the basket Radford trailed 46-20.
West Virginia led 53-22 at the break, led by Carter’s 13 first-half points and the team’s 31 points off turnovers. All 12 players that played in the first half for WVU also scored.
Carter ended the game with 15.
Radford’s Ed Polite Jr. came into the game averaging a double-double, but was held very much in check by the Press Virginia defense. Polite managed just five points and five rebounds – half of his season averages.
Instead it was Justin Cousin and Caleb Tanner that led the way offensively for the Highlanders. Cousin led Radford with 12 points and Tanner added 10 in the loss.
Free throw shooting became the story of the second half for the Mountaineers, who struggled mightily from the line. WVU shot just 5 of 14 from the free throw line in the second half.
West Virginia actually had a shooting percentage from the floor (49.2) than it did from the free throw line (48.4).
The struggles at the line, though, were somewhat covered up by the Mountaineers 41 points off Radford turnovers.
WVU is now 6-0 all time against the Highlanders.
The Mountaineers have one more out of conference game remaining before starting Big 12 play, that’s against Northern Kentucky and will be played Friday at 4 p.m. at the Coliseum.