The West Virginia University Mountaineers (7-1) produced 31 points on 20 turnovers to roll past the Radford Highlanders (4-5) 67-51 Saturday evening.
The Mountaineers steadily built a 13-7 lead until a 5-0 spurt got the Highlanders within one. Then, DePaul Transfer Pauly Paulicap entered the game. The forward quickly got to work on the defensive end with his seventh block of the season and the Mountaineers were off and running with Malik Curry burying a three off the assist from Taz Sherman that ignited a 13-2 run.
A nearly three-minute West Virginia scoring drought opened the door for the Highlanders to cut the leads to six, but, again, Paulicap came off the bench and provide another spark, this time around, for a massive two-hand slam.
“I’m really proud of Pauly,” said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins. “Pauly has really worked hard and has become a pretty reliable player.”
West Virginia was without its second-leading scorer guard Sean McNeil with a lower back injury and the bulk half of the offense coming from Sherman, scoring nine of his 21 first half points in the final four minutes, pushing the Mountaineers to a 16-4 run, and taking a 42-24 lead at halftime.
“I don’t think it was a choice whether we relied on him (Taz) too much or not, I think we had to,” said Huggins.
The Mountaineers added to their lead in the second half, extending it to 27 in just over four minutes. However, West Virginia became stagnant on offense, shooting just 6-25 from the field, including 1-7 from three-point range in the final 15 minutes of the game.
“We played well for a while like we have been doing, we played for while then we quit playing. We get a lead and let it go,” said Huggins. “We come out and do a really good job defending, rotating, doing the right things, the things we weren’t doing and worked on them and worked on them in practice and we got better. I thought we did a really good job for a while and then we quit doing that.”
West Virginia was able to keep its distance from any Radford comeback despite not playing well. Nonetheless, they were able to play the younger guy’s more minutes, including freshman James Okonkwo making his first appearance, a career-high in points (5) and minutes (17) for freshman Seth Wilson and a season-high seven minutes from sophomore Seny N’Diaye, also picking up his third block on the season.
“They got a long ways to go,” said Huggins. “They’re not in very good shape for one because those other guys eat up the majority of practice time. So, I don’t know if it’s fair to assess when they obviously haven’t had the same reps. I mean, obviously, we thought they could help us eventually. I knew it wasn’t now.”
West Virginia is back in action on Wednesday as the Mountaineers host the 17th-ranked UCONN Huskies at 7:00 pm and will be televised on ESPN2.
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