The West Virginia Mountaineers move to 2-0 on the season and will advance to the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic championship game after defeating the VCU Rams 78-66 in the semifinal round.
Mountaineer big man Derek Culver got the first four points of the game at the free throw line and then picked his first bucket of the game off an offensive rebound.
Both West Virginia and VCU got off to an extremely slow start defensively as the Mountaineers led just 6-0 at the first media timeout. West Virginia was 1-10 shooting, while the Rams were 0-4 from the floor.
On the first possession out of the tv timeout for West Virginia, Emmitt Matthews lofted up one toward the rim for Miles McBride who didn't have the space to slam it home so instead, he secured it and laid it in. A couple of trips up the floor later, the offense didn't have great spacing so McBride heaved up a three in front of the VCU bench and knocked it in to give West Virginia a 13-0 lead. The Rams finally picked up their first points of the game from Nah'Shon Hyland at the free throw line about seven minutes into the game.
The first made field goal from VCU came at the 10:50 mark in the first half, but wasn't a true bucket as it was a goaltending call against Taz Sherman.
Sean McNeil hit his first three of the game on a catch and shoot play to bump the lead out to 24-9. Shortly after the three ball, the Mountaineers started to get a little messy in terms of taking the ball against the VCU pressure and handed the Rams free points. One of those turnovers came from Jordan McCabe who was stripped by Rams guard Nah'Shon Hyland who went the other way, made the bucket, and drew the blocking foul on McCabe. Fortunately for West Virginia, they were able to get two of those points back at the charity stripe due to Hyland stepping over McCabe on the made bucket, which was called a technical foul.
Derek Culver continued his dominance in the first half by spinning and laying the ball in for two and drew contact for the foul. Culver hit the free throw and finished the half with 15 points and eight rebounds. Sean McNeil hit another three a couple of minutes later for the final made bucket of the half for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia looked anemic on offense, but still found themselves up 42-33 at the break.
VCU scored the first five points of the 2nd half off a layup from Corey Douglas Jr. and a three-pointer from Adrian Baldwin Jr. West Virginia missed their first seven shots from the floor, including a handful of turnovers to allow the Rams to cut the deficit to just 45-41.
Finally, the Mountaineers found some offensive rhythm thanks to a three from Taz Sherman and a pair of threes from Sean McNeil, which caused VCU head coach Mike Rhoades to call a timeout. West Virginia's 13-2 run came to an end off a three from Jamir Watkins.
The Rams went on a 8-1 run as their suffocating full-court pressure really became a problem for the Mountaineers, so much so that getting the ball inbounded and across mid-court was a sigh of relief for head coach Bob Huggins.
That run, however, was not enough as the Mountaineers were able to keep the lead at double-digits in the final minutes of play to secure the victory.
The Mountaineers will take on Western Kentucky tomorrow at 1 p.m. EST in the championship round of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic.
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