WVU Basketball

WVU advances, sets up NCAA Tournament meeting with Marshall

By Chris Jackson

 

West Virginia is on the cusp of its 11th Sweet 16 berth in program history.

 

With Friday’s 85-68 victory over 12th seeded Murray State at the Viejas Arena in San Diego, the No. 5 seed Mountaineers will face in-state foe Marshall on Sunday for a shot at the Sweet 16.

 

“We’ve just got to take it one game at a time,” said WVU junior forward Esa Ahmad. “It’s always good to get the first one out of the way and get the win, but now we’ve got to focus on Marshall.”

 

Senior guard Jevon Carter shined with 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting, eight assists, six steals and five rebounds, but it was the production off two bench players that provided some of the most impactful performances of the afternoon.

 

Freshman forward Teddy Allen and redshirt sophomore forward Logan Routt combined for all 23 of WVU’s bench points. The duo missed just three of their 11 shot attempts.

 

Allen scored 16 points, which was the second-most behind Carter. He went 5-of-8 shooting and made six of his seven free throw attempts, marking his highest scoring effort since the 16 points he delivered in a Feb. 12 win over TCU.

 

“We need that,” Ahmad said. “That’s what Teddy does. We call him ‘Teddy Buckets,’ so we needed him to get buckets, and that’s what he did today.”

 

Routt finished with a career-high seven points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting and four rebounds. He also went on a mini tear in the first half that helped give WVU some separation on the scoreboard.

 

The Cameron, West Virginia, native scored five straight points during an 8-0 WVU run to put the team up 16-9, topping off the run with a big offensive rebound and layup. He later added an alley-oop after a steal and assist from Carter that made it 58-45 WVU, which capped off a 7-0 run.

 

“Energy, he ran the floor, played D, contested shots, rebounded,” Allen said. “He did everything down there today. We don’t win the game without him today.”

 

Another big advantage for WVU was how it executed its gameplan on Murray State senior guard Jonathan Stark. Its biggest emphasis was containing him, and that’s exactly what the Mountaineers did.

 

Stark, who averaged 21.8 points per game on 46 percent shooting (41 percent from long range) and was the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, struggled to get into a rhythm. Stark had nine points, making one of his 12 shots and one of his 10 three-point attempts.

 

It took Stark until 5:34 remained in the first half for him to get on the scoreboard as he hit two free throws to trim WVU’s lead to 23-17. His first made basket came with 4:15 left in the half on a three-pointer to make it 27-20 Mountaineers, ending a rough beginning to the contest that saw him miss his first six shots.

 

“We guarded him as a team,” Allen said. “We said before that if Murray State beats us, it better not be Stark. We guarded him as a team.”

 

The only disadvantage to shutting down Stark was the play from Murray State senior forward Terrell Miller. WVU wanted to limit both as much as they could, but they understood how difficult that would be.

 

Miller finished with 27 points on 8-of-11 shooting, making five threes to go alongside 17 rebounds. His first missed shot didn’t come until his eighth attempt.

 

“We kind of tried to do the same with Miller, but it’s hard to contain both of them like that,” Routt said. But we just executed the gameplan to perfection basically.”

 

 


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