A 17-point first half lead disappeared Tuesday afternoon, and the Mountaineers lose a tough one to Virginia Tech on the road by a final score of 87-82.
The loss had Coach Bob Huggins reflecting on the youth of his team.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of young guys that don’t understand when you stop playing other people don’t.” said Huggins. “We quit guarding and at the same time we missed two layups when they make their run. We missed several wide-open shots and we didn’t shoot it particularly well.”
The Mountaineers got off to a fast 5-0 start before the Hokies could get on the scoreboard. West Virginia extended their lead up to 29-12 in the first half. With a 17-point lead, it looked as if the Mountaineers would put the game away in the first 20 minutes.
The offense would cool off after the fast start, and Virginia Tech cut the West Virginia lead to 41-36 at the half. The Mountaineers managed to score only 10 points in the final 7:13 of the first half. Virginia Tech finished the half on a 22-10 run, hitting a three at the buzzer to gain momentum going into the locker room.
Coming out of the break, West Virginia was flat. The Hokies went on a 12-1 run to open the second half, making the score 48-42 in favor of Virginia Tech. The lead would grow all the way up to eight points before the Mountaineers started to get things together on the offensive end.
The Virginia Tech lead was short lived. Eron Harris put WVU back on top with 8:59 to go in the game when he hit two free throws. The Mountaineers would lead 62-61 at this point. The Hokies responded on the next possession with a basket by freshman guard Devin Wilson, putting Virginia Tech back on top. Wilson would add a point at the line, finishing the three point play, giving the Hokies a 64-62 lead. Nathan Adrian would tie the game up for the Mountaineers, tying the game at 64.
Ben Emelogu hit a three on the next Virginia Tech possession, putting the Hokies back up 67-64. Virginia Tech received a great performance from guard Ben Emelogu, as he finished the day with 22 points off the bench.
The game continued to go back and forth down the stretch. The Hokies would add to their lead over the next couple of possessions, pushing the lead to five, 71-66. Juwan State added a couple free throws for the Mountaineers in multiple trips to the free throw line, cutting the lead to just 71-68. Gary Browne would add a free throw of his own, and the Hokie lead was two. Jarell Eddie would miss a jumper on the next Virginia Tech possession, and get a put back, making the lead 73-69.
Gary Browne would hit a huge three with 5:10 remaining pulling the Mountaineers within one. Eron Harris got a steal on defense, and cashed in the miscue by the Hokies, giving his team the lead once again, 74-73. This would be the last time West Virginia was in front. The Mountaineers let a 17-point first half lead slip, and Virginia Tech walks away with an 87-82 victory. After the game, sophomore guard Eron Harris says his team has to be more consistent.
“We have to be more consistent,” said Harris. “I thought we made a lot of mistakes in the first half when we had the big lead that costs us.”
The Mountaineers shot just 37 percent (25-70) for the afternoon. Remi Dibo led the team in scoring off the bench with 17 points. He was followed by Eron Harris, who added 16. Despite finishing with 16 points, Harris went just 4 of 17 from the field. After the game, he was clearly frustrated by his performance.
“My shot just wasn’t falling today,” said Harris. “I was even missing layups.”
Freshman Devin Williams had another good day on the boards, grabbing 11 rebounds. Guard Juwan Staten finished with nine rebounds and 10 points, one rebound shy of getting a double-double.
The loss could serve as a mental block going forward, but Eron Harris made a promise to Mountaineer Nation.
“We’re a family, and we’re going to put this one behind us,” said Harris. “We’re going to fix our mistakes for Sunday, and come out ready to play. We’ll be fine, I promise.”