WVU men’s basketball is moving on in the College Basketball Invitational after overpowering Grand Canyon with a late second half charge in a 77-63 victory.
After falling behind 51-49 with 9:40 to play, the Mountaineers ripped off nine unanswered points to take control of the game. That run eventually turned into a 22-2 spurt across 5:24, fueled by fast-paced play in transition and junior Jermaine Haley’s hot hand.
During WVU’s lengthy run, Grand Canyon endured a slump where it went 1-10 from the field.
Head coach Bob Huggins said the Mountaineers played better defense late in the game, which led to success in the team’s transition offense.
“When you let them do what they wanna do, they’re really good,” said Huggins. “When you have to work that hard to get the ball, it kind of wears on you a little bit. We couldn’t get any transition in the first half, and then about halfway through the second half, we got a bunch of transition.”
It was Haley who led West Virginia (15-20) with 24 points on the night. He made just one of his first five shots, then went 10-13 the rest of the way. West Virginia’s improved defense allowed him to score easy baskets in transition.
“He’s probably one of the best guards in transition in the country, so whenever we can get him in transition, that’s probably one of our best offenses,” said junior guard Chase Harler.
Freshman Emmitt Matthews Jr. and junior Lamont West each added 11 points, while Harler chipped in 10 points — all in the second half. Huggins said Harler has looked sharp in recent practices.
“I told our coaching staff, ‘We’ve got to get Chase started,’” said Huggins. “I thought we had a pretty good look for him, and he shot it over the rim, but the 3 that he hit right in front of the bench, that was key. That was what I thought started the run.”
Freshman Derek Culver scored seven points and added 10 rebounds. Culver has grabbed 10 or more boards in three-straight games, as well as in five of his last six appearances.
WVU will host Coastal Carolina Monday at 7 p.m. in the quarterfinals.