December 20, 2015

West Virginia's success stems from its ability to force opponents into mistakes with suffocating and relentless defensive pressure.

Coach Bob Huggins' concern, though, is the rate at which his team is giving the ball right back.

With Big 12 play on the horizon, the 19th-ranked Mountaineers host Eastern Kentucky on Monday night.

West Virginia (9-1) prides itself on controlling the tempo and making the opposition play at its pace. It put Marshall on the ropes with full-court pressure Thursday and went on a 16-1 second-half spurt to run away with an 86-68 victory.

The Mountaineers forced 19 turnovers and lead the nation with 22.3 per game. Nine players logged at least 14 minutes, a sign of depth that allows them to play the up-tempo style that often has opponents scrambling to keep up.

Jevon Carter scored 15 points and Daxter Miles Jr. added 14, helping West Virginia overcome a tough night from leading scorer Devin Williams, who finished with nine while battling foul trouble.

''We sped them up,'' Carter said. ''They started missing shots, started getting tired. They had people cramping. I just think they weren't used to our style.

''We knew that when we got up, we had to put them away.''

West Virginia has struggled with its shooting, ranking ninth in the 10-team Big 12 in 3-point percentage at 30.5. It makes up for that by grabbing an average of 18.4 offensive rebounds to lead the country after totaling 22 on Thursday.

Four hoops during the Mountaineers' second-half run came via offensive boards.

''We came out at halftime, we were supposed to throw it inside more than what we threw it inside the first half,'' Huggins said. ''We finally made some shots and they didn't.''

What concerns Huggins is the Mountaineers' average of 14.4 turnovers per contest. They committed 18 against Marshall to match their season high, four days after they had only five in a 42-point win over Louisiana-Monroe.

West Virginia's average is up from 12.9 turnovers last season, and Huggins knows that needs to change. Following this contest, the Mountaineers travel to face Virginia Tech on Dec. 30 and Kansas State on Jan. 2.

"We turned the ball over way too much," Huggins said. "If we can get our turnovers to 10 or somewhere under that, we could be a pretty good basketball team."

Eastern Kentucky (8-5) will have to take care of the ball much better if it plans to have any shot at pulling off an upset. It jumped out to an early 11-point lead against East Tennessee State on Friday before falling 87-81 after committing a season-high 21 turnovers.

The giveaways spoiled an otherwise solid offensive effort as the Colonels shot 53.1 percent and hit 11 of 24 from 3-point range. They made 42.1 percent from the field and 31.7 percent from behind the arc over the previous four.

Jarelle Reischel scored 29 points and Javontae Hawkins 23. Reischel leads the Colonels with 19.8 per game while Hawkins averages 17.8.

This will be the first meeting between the teams since West Virginia's 74-67 win Dec. 30, 2012.

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