West Virginia men’s basketball punched its ticket to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after holding off 14-seed Morehead State, 84-67, to tip off March Madness on Friday night.
The Mountaineer victory is the 900th of WVU coach Bob Huggins’s career and was propelled by a massive 30-point debut from sophomore guard Miles “Deuce” McBride. It also moves West Virginia to the second round where on Sunday they will face 11-seed Syracuse.
The Mountaineers led for over 35 minutes of the game, but it didn’t seem like it at times. WVU built a double-digit lead in seven minutes, but Morehead State wiped just three minutes later.
The key matchup in the first half was between forwards Johni Broome of MSU and Derek Culver of WVU. The Eagle freshman largely silenced the Mountaineer big man, who was held to just two points without a field goal in the half. Broome, on the other hand, added eight in that span.
McBride, however, was strong throughout. He started the game with 12 points in the half and led WVU to an eight-point lead at halftime.
Morehead State started the second half off by chipping away WVU’s lead. Soon enough, they got within a point of the Mountaineers after KJ Hunt put the Eagles on for a five-point run.
McBride manufactured a turning point in the half when he pulled off a six-point possession with a fastbreak layup and four free throws. West Virginia essentially coasted from that point on, keeping the lead in double digits.
The sophomore ended the game with 30 points, making 11-of-17 shots and a trio of three-pointers to go along with six rebounds. Culver ended up coming alive in the second half, adding 10 points and five rebounds to finish with 12 and seven for the game.
In addition to that duo, Jalen Bridges (15 points) and Sean McNeil (13) also finished with double-figure scoring.
DeVon Cooper had a career game for MSU with 21 points, including five three-pointers. Skyelar Potter (18) and Broome (10) also finished with double digits.
West Virginia now turns its attention to an old and familiar foe in Syracuse. The Mountaineers have not faced the Orange since making the move to the Big 12, ending the rivalry on with a 63-61 loss in the Carrier Dome in 2012.
WVU and Syracuse tip off on Sunday at 5:15 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on CBS.