MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For the first time as interim head coach, a win came easy for Josh Eilert.
WVU men’s basketball (2-1) took care of business in a 70-57 win over Jacksonville State (1-2) Tuesday night at the WVU Coliseum. The Mountaineers led for the final 38 minutes of the game.
We had two really good days of preparation,” Eilert said. “By no means was this a perfect game, but everybody bought into the game plan and figured out a way to win.”
Interim head coach Josh Eilert opted for a minor tweak in his starting lineup for Tuesday’s game: freshman Ofri Naveh started at the two-guard over Seth Wilson, who started each of the team’s first two games.
Like Monmouth did successfully on the way to victory in Morgantown last week, Jacksonville State opened the game in a 2-3 zone on defense, leaving ample opportunities for WVU’s starting guards, Kobe Johnson and Naveh.
Johnson – who scored a career-high 13 points in the loss to Monmouth – rose to the challenge early. He recorded nine of the team’s first 15 points, and he led all scorers at halftime with 11 points.
Both teams went back-and-forth for the first 10 minutes of the game. Jacksonville State drilled four of its first seven three pointers, and the Gamecocks took a 16-13 lead into the under-12-minute timeout.
About halfway through the first half, WVU started running its offense through center Jesse Edwards. Edwards (14 points, six rebounds) tallied nine points in the final nine minutes of the first half, including a pair of dunks with a foul attached.
At halftime, the senior center had 10 points and five rebounds to his name, and WVU led 40-27 after they rallied for a 21-8 run to finish the first frame.
The momentum rolled into the second period, and the Mountaineers scored the first five points of the half.
WVU forward Quinn Slazinski led the show in the game’s final 20 minutes. Slazinski made his first four shots of the half and scored 12 second-half points to hold the Mountaineers’ lead over 10 points for the majority of the half. He finished the night with 19 points and 6 rebounds.
Johnson – who has now set career-highs in points in back-to-back games – also scored 19 points with six rebounds and five assists.
The Mountaineers entered the game with a conference-low 33% shooting percentage in their first two games. The scored 70 points on 23-of-45 shooting (51.1%) Tuesday night, which was a season-high. Four different starters (Johnson, Josiah Harris, Slazinski and Edwards) scored over 10 points.
“We shot it way more efficient, 8-for-19 [from three-point range], I’ll take that every day of the week,” Eilert said. “You look at the box score, the idea was to get [Edwards] as many touches as possible. He only got six field goal attempts, but he drew 10 fouls. He wasn’t stellar from the line, but that’s something he needs to rep out. The game plan was to play through Jesse, and we need to do that as much as we can because we get a lot better looks when we go inside out.”
WVU will travel to Florida for the Fort Meyers Tipoff next week. The Mountaineers open up the holiday event with a game Monday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1.