No. 17 West Virginia is heading home with a win after surviving a battle with Iowa State in Ames on Tuesday, 76-72.
Although the contest was close, the Mountaineers built a double-digit lead at halftime that they would hold on to for much of the second half — but the Cyclones were able to chip that deficit right away and make it a one-possession game in the closing moments of the game.
“We let down,” Huggins said. “We let down, when we get ahead like that we let down. We’ve done it repeatedly.”
Runs by both teams were the story of the first half. West Virginia jumped out to an early lead with a 10-2 run, but soon enough, the Cyclones stormed back and tied it back up. Iowa State took a real advantage with an 11-2 run led by Solomon Young that put it up by seven points — its biggest lead of the half.
Momentum swung again, however, when West Virginia made another tear, this time outscoring the Cyclones 19-2 to get its lead to double digits.
The Mountaineers made its scoring by committee, with Sean McNeil adding eight points in the half while Derek Culver, Miles McBride and Taz Sherman all added seven. Although they made just 44 percent of their shots, this worked as they took an 11-point advantage into halftime.
That lead was matched by a massive effort by WVU on the rebounding glass, as they turned 10 offensive rebounds into 11 second-chance points.
Right out of the locker room, though, Iowa State began chipping away at the West Virginia lead. For better part of the half, WVU was able to keep that lead around the 10-point mark, topping it out at 15 with nine minutes to go — but before long, the Cyclones found their shooting stroke.
This was led by Tyler Harris, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half off of five three-pointers. Over a seven-minute span, the Cyclones made eight of 11 shots to force WVU’s hand and get the game within a bucket with just over a minute to go, capped off by a mid-range jumper from Rasir Bolton.
On the ensuing possession, Culver turned the ball over to the Cyclones, giving the home squad a prime opportunity to tie the game up, but they were unsuccessful. They were even given the last possession of the game with the shot clock turned off, but Bolton collided with Gabe Osabuohien as he drove to the basket and turned the ball over himself.
“That was the play of the game, without a question,” Huggins said.
Iowa State was then forced to foul Sherman, who sunk both free throws to seal the win and get his scoring total to 18 points, the game-high.
Sherman was one of four double-figure scorers for West Virginia, along with Culver, Sean McNeil and Emmitt Matthews Jr., who each added 13. Matthews added to his highlight reel with a posterizing dunk in the second half, while Culver added 12 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season.
Miles McBride added nine points and eight rebounds, along with a slam of his own.
Harris’s 15 points for Iowa State matched Bolton and Young for the Cyclones’ team-high.
“I think they shot, like, 52 percent in the second half,” Sherman said. “That’s uncharacteristic for a Bob Huggins team and we’ve got to get that character back.”
The victory moves West Virginia to 12-5 on the season, with a 5-3 mark in the Big 12. That slots them as the third seed behind Texas, but 3.5 games behind Baylor along with the Longhorns and Oklahoma. Iowa State slides to 2-10 overall and remains winless in the conference at 0-7.