WVU turned it on late, however, and defeated Radford 72-62 at the Coliseum.
The Mountaineers were led by center Aaric Murray, who had 23 points and eight rebounds, his best statistical scoring performance at WVU.
“I’m just playing harder,” said Murray, who had four assist and three steals as well in 38 minutes. “I’ve tried to rebound a bit better, defend a bit better and make sure to remember the plays.”
WVU improved to 6-5 on the season and has won two straight games, but it seems those wins could’ve have been by more points.
“That’s our problem. I don’t know what’s good for us, because one day it will be good for us and the next day’s it’s not any good,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins.
Despite shooting around 20 percent in the first 15 minutes of the game, WVU was able to hit 45.8 percent of its shots in the game. Outside of Murray, no starter had more than eight points.
“We all know he’s a talented kid,” Huggins said of Murray. “He’s learning how to play harder for a longer period of time.”
West Virginia ended the game on a 24-13 run behind a change from man-to-man to the 1-3-1 zone defense, which Radford didn’t handle well. The Highlanders missed nearly every jump shot they took in the final eight minutes of the game.
Player of the Game
“We have a lot of length in that defense,” said Staten, who plays the back of the 1-3-1 defense. “It makes it hard for guards to find a player to pass to, and it takes a lot of time off the clock … We only use it when we need it.”
Murray and guards Gary Browne and Juwan Staten combined to score 31 of the Mountaineers’ 41 second-half points, as WVU was a bit more successful with a guard-based offense that spread the floor and allowed the quicker players an opportunity to get to the rim.
“We just figured that if we spread teams out and allow our guards to get touches in the paint, we’d be able to get to the line more or find cutters and shooters,” Staten said. “It’s something we’ve been working on in practice, and it worked in practice.”
West Virginia trailed most of the first half vs. Radford, as it just couldn’t hit an open shot or take advantage of its obvious size. The Highlanders jumped out to a 7-2 lead, and WVU quickly responded with a 5-0 run to tie the game.
The Mountaineers took their first lead at 4:26 in the first half on a jumper from Murray. He made eight of 10 points a stretch late in the first half to give WVU the lead.
West Virginia would take a four-point advantage into the locker room at 31-27. The first half was finished off by perhaps the best offensive play of the game when freshman guard Terry Henderson dunked a nice pass from the key by forward Dominique Rutledge. Eight of WVU’s points came from the free-throw line, but after shooting around 20 percent for much of the first half, the Mountaineers finished shooting 41.7 percent in the first half.
Kevin Noreen’s brother, Kyle, hit a three after the Mountaineers took a seven-point lead. Noreen followed that with a steal and layup to make it 39-37 to force Huggins to call a timeout.
Radford would regain the lead after a layup and free throw from forward Jalen Carethers.
The game went back and forth throughout the middle of the second half until a tipped pass from Murray led to a pass from forward Deniz Kilicli and a lay up and free throw from Browne to make it 53-49 with less than nine minutes to play.
WVU wouldn’t look back from there.
Rutledge finished with eight points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes.