Friday night's first-round game between West Virginia and Morehead State got started about 30 minutes late thanks to the North Texas/Purdue game going to overtime. In the first few minutes, you could tell both teams were anxious to get things started and it took a couple of trips up and down the floor before there was any sort of offensive rhythm.
K.J. Hunt Jr. got the scoring underway by knocking down a mid-range jumper for Morehead State which was then followed up by back-to-back three's from Miles McBride and Sean McNeil. West Virginia's defense did a really nice job in the first six or so minutes of denying passes and forcing turnovers turning into fastbreak buckets for the Mountaineers. The 11-0 run forced Morehead State head coach Preston Spradlin to call his first timeout of the game.
The Eagles' defense tightened things up and in turn, went on an 11-0 run themselves to knot the game up at 17 apiece. True freshman big man Johni Broome flustered Derek Culver in the first half on both ends of the floor. Broome collected eight points and five rebounds while Culver was limited to two points (both free throws) and two boards.
Both teams traded buckets back forth over the next few minutes before the Mountaineers gained a little separation once again with Emmitt Matthews Jr. drilling a three from the corner, pushing the lead to 36-29. The final four points in the final two minutes of the half came from the charity stripe as Derek Culver and DeVon Cooper converted on both of their free throw attempts. West Virginia took a 38-31 lead into the locker room.
McBride led all scorers at the break with 12 points on 5/8 shooting, including knocking down his first four shots of the night.
Morehead State got things rolling quickly, starting the 2nd half on a 10-4 run which trimmed the lead to one, forcing a West Virginia timeout. Shortly after, the Mountaineers stretched the lead out once again by going on an 11-0 run with nine of those points coming in a 30-second span. McBride made a layup while taking an elbow to the head from DeVon Cooper which was ruled as a Flagrant 1 foul. McBride made both free throws, then on the inbound, he threw the ball off the defender's back, grabbed it, and was fouled once again on the layup attempt.
After a very quiet first half, the Mountaineers finally got some offensive production out of Culver as he scored on back-to-back possessions to extend the lead to 59-48.
McBride went back to work hitting a pair of threes, one of which was highly contested. A few possessions later, he hit the 30 point mark with a breakaway dunk to make it a 78-61 lead. The last 12 minutes of the game were dominated by West Virginia and Morehead never kept within striking distance.
The Mountaineers went on to defeat the Eagles 84-67 and will now advance to the Round of 32 to take on old Big East rival Syracuse on Sunday.
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