West Virginia gritted out a five-point road win at Iowa State on Tuesday night.
AMES, Iowa — After getting embarrassed at Florida last weekend, a local newspaper ran a headline calling No. 14 West Virginia "Mess Virginia."
The Mountaineers cleaned things up enough Tuesday night to win in one of the toughest gyms in the Big 12.
Jaysean Paige scored 23 points, including a crucial 3 with 1:05 left, and West Virginia beat No. 13 Iowa State 81–76 for its league-leading fourth Big 12 road win.
Devin Williams added 17 points and 18 rebounds for the Mountaineers (18–4, 7–2), who rallied from 15 points down for its third win in four games.
Coach Bob Huggins said that the staff's move to slip newspapers criticizing the team under the players' doors this week seemed to fired them up
"They're very resilient," Huggins said. "There's a lot of things we don't do well. But they do compete."
Paige shot 10 of 17 from the field, none bigger than the 3 that gave West Virginia a 75–74 lead. The Mountaineers outrebounded the Cyclones 43–26, and Tarik Phillip grabbed his own missed free throw to seal it with 19 seconds left.
"We haven't really shot it really good all year, so sometimes those shots are going to be open," Paige said.
Georges Niang scored 20 points and Abdel Nader had 19 for Iowa State (16–6, 5–4), which had 16 turnovers and lost consecutive games for the second time this season.
"They got us out of what we wanted to do," Iowa State point guard Monte Morris said. "That caused a lot of turnovers that led to a lot of buckets at the other end."
Iowa State fell behind by as many as six points in the second half before Niang's 3 and layup put the Cyclones back on top 68-64. Paige tied it at 70-all on a layup with 2:36 left and the Mountaineers hit six straight free throws in the final 41 seconds.
The Cyclones also lost in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, fading late in a 10-point defeat at No. 8 Texas A&M.
But Iowa State opened this game on a 21–8 run, capped when reserve Deonte Burton went sideways for a one-handed dunk.
Burton followed with a block and a 15-footer to make it 25–10. West Virginia's pressure defense and superior rebounding started causing fits for the Cyclones though, and the Mountaineers pulled within 37-33 by halftime.
But a one-handed dunk by Esa Ahmad and a layup by Daxter Miles Jr. off a turnover gave West Virginia its first lead, 46–45.
Miles had 11 points for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia: Huggins moved to 10th on the all-time wins list with a win at Texas Tech last week. ...The Mountaineers allowed Iowa State to grab back some momentum heading into halftime, as Jameel McKay had a dunk off an alley-oop pass at the buzzer. McKay had seven points.
Iowa State: The Cyclones buried five of their first nine 3-point attempts. ...Jordan Ashton appears to have supplanted Hallice Cooke as the first guard off the bench. He entered the game ahead of Cooke yet again Tuesday. Ashton's first shot was a 3 to give Iowa State a 12-point lead.
West Virginia beat the Cyclones on the offensive glass 17–8, leading to an 18–6 advantage in second-chance points. ... Morris had 10 assists and no turnovers against one of the nation's most tenacious defenses. But Niang gave it away eight times.
"We weren't as far away as a lot of people tried to make out that we were," Huggins said.
West Virginia hosts No. 15 Baylor on Saturday.
Iowa State plays at Oklahoma State on Saturday.