MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The 15th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers overcame a game effort by the VMI Keydets to pull away in the second half for a 90-55 win in NCAA basketball action Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va.
VMI (1-7) had stayed close in the first half, trailing by 13 at halftime and 11 with 18:22 to go, but a 22-6 run by the Mountaineers (8-1) early in the second half broke the game open and sent WVU on to the victory.
In the loss, VMI was led by QJ Peterson's 17 points. Peterson was VMI's lone double-digit scorer in the game, as the Keydets shot 19 of 54 (35.2%) from the floor. VMI went 8 of 25 (32%) from long range and just 9 of 16 (56.3%) from the foul line.
WVU was paced by Daxter Miles Jr., who had a game-high 20 points including 5 of 6 from long range. The Mountaineers finished 27 of 61 (44.3%) overall, but an impressive 10 of 19 (52.6%) from long range.
In addition, WVU made it to the line 42 times with 26 makes (61.9%). 22 of those made free throws came in the decisive second half.
The Keydets never led in Saturday's contest, but after falling behind by 16 nine minutes in, battled back to get within five (22-17), thanks to an 11-0 run capped by a Fred Iruafemi basket at the 7:34 mark. It was still a five-point contest at the 5:30 mark, 25-20, but the Mountaineers closed the half on a 13-5 run to go up by 13 at the break.
The Keydets were still within 13 after a Keith Smith three-pointer with 13:48 remaining made it 54-41, but WVU answered with a 22-6 run that gave the Mountaineers a 29-point lead with 8:13 to go. The Keydets got no closer than 28 the rest of the way.
VMI committed just nine turnovers in the first half against the nation’s leader in forced turnovers (26.5) and the Keydets also generated eight assists before intermission.
The WVU pressure took its toll in the second half as VMI saw its turnover count climb to12 resulting in more WVU scoring opportunities. The Mountaineers overcame its sluggish free throw shooting to finish the contest with a 27-3 advantage in points in the paint. WVU also produced 44 points in bench scoring to VMI’s robust 28 points from reserves- in part to leading scorer Peterson coming off the bench for the first time this year due to coach’s decision.
VMI will return home to open a two-game home stand Tuesday night against Charleston Southern at 7 pm.
VMI Head Coach Dan Earl – “It’s difficult to say you did some good things when the loss was by this much, but I did think we did some good things. In the first half, defensively, I thought we were in the gap and had each other’s backs. We were trying to play hard and we got on the floor for some loose balls. The rebounding margin wasn’t ridiculous. After the first five minutes of the second half, they wear you down and that’s part of their thing. I’ve been around the game of basketball a long time. That’s a very good team.
“I was proud of our guys for their effort for most of the game. I thought we did a decent job of taking care of the ball especially in the first half. We made some pretty good decisions but unfortunately some shots didn’t fall.”
“If we stay the course and continue to do what we ask them to do, I think we will continue to get better and get on the right track.”