After a slow beginning, West Virginia dominated in all facets to advance past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
The fifth-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers trounced No. 13 seed Marshall, 94-71, to earn their third Sweet 16 berth in the last four years and the 11th in program history, setting up a meeting against top-seeded Villanova at 7:27 p.m. ET Friday in Boston.
“We are just happy to keep playing,” said WVU senior guard Jevon Carter. “This is March. This is what we came to do. We don’t just want to go to the Sweet 16. We want to win it all, go back, prepare for Villanova, watch a lot of film and get ready for the next game.
Marshall, who was coming off its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory, started strong. Jon Elmore and Adjin Penava made threes, and then Jannson Williams followed it up with a three of his own to give the Thundering Herd a 9-2 lead in the earlygoing.
But from there, it was all WVU, and it became the Mountaineers game in a hurry.
Freshman forward Teddy Allen, redshirt sophomore guard Beetle Bolden and redshirt sophomore forward Lamont West went on a 15-4 run of their own off the bench, with nine of those points coming from long range. WVU was up 23-20, however, that was only the beginning.
After not committing a turnover in the first 7:42 of the game, Marshall turned the ball over 11 times the remainder of the first half. IN that time, WVU pulled away and took a 45-28 lead into the locker room.
“We wasn’t really playing as hard as we could, and coach told us that we needed to pick up the intensity, so we just picked up the intensity,” West said. “We pressed them harder, and they turned the ball over.”
The trio of Allen, Bolden and West scored 37 of WVU’s 39 bench points. West had 18 points, Bolden had 11 and Allen had eight.
It was West that stole the show, though. He made six of his 10 shots and three of his seven three-pointers, going alongside career-high 10 rebounds in 23 minutes.
“That’s a huge lift,” Bolden said. “We know Lamont can shoot and score, and if he can get the rebounds like he did tonight, I think it will be very tough to beat us.”
That energy WVU discussed helped its defense key in on one of the most prolific offenses in the country, which came in ranked 11th at 84.2 points per game.
Marshall finished with 18 turnovers, leading to 26 Mountaineer points. Eleven of those turnovers came in a 12-minutes span, but that was only part of the dominant effort from WVU’s defense.
Star guard Jon Elmore — who is the only player in the country to average 22 points, six assists and five rebounds — could not get much going offensively. He did finish with 15 points, but it took 12 shot attempts. Elmore also had just four assists, two rebounds and eight of Marshall’s 18 turnovers.
It was a similar performance that saw WVU hold Murray State star Jonathan Stark to 1-of-12 shooting from the field and 1-of-10 from long range in the first round.
“We just tried to make it tough on him as a team,” Bolden said. “We played team defense on him, and I think we did a good job.”
Carter did all he could to keep his college career alive for at least another game. Carter scored 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting, made five of his seven threes, assisted on five baskets, recorded five steals and hauled in four rebounds.
“That’s typical for him,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. “That’s why he was the National Defensive Player of the Year ago and probably will be this year.”