The West Virginia Mountaineers moved to 3-0 on the 2020-21 season with a 70-64 win over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the championship game of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic.
Coming into this matchup, all eyes were set on the matchup between Western Kentucky's Charles Bassey and the two bigs of West Virginia - Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe. Just three and a half minutes into the game, both Bassey and Tshiebwe had to take a seat on the bench having two fouls a piece.
Emmitt Matthews Jr. found his stroke early knocking down a long jumpshot and a three ball grabbing five quick points. Miles McBride also drained in a three from the corner for his first made bucket of the game just minutes prior to Matthews' second three.
Gabe Osabuohien came in and provided quality minutes in the first half drawing a charge, grabbing a few rebounds, and even notched four points on the offensive end. At the under eight timeout, the score was knotted up at 20-20.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins had to get creative with his lineup combinations in the final seven minutes of the half when Culver was called for his 2nd foul, in which the Western Kentucky guard leaned in to buy the call from the official. Osabuohien checked back into the game and immediately scored his third basket of the half, and also picked up a block a couple of possessions later.
With Tshiebwe and Culver in foul trouble, Western Kentucky did anything they wanted on the offensive end of the floor. The Mountaineers' defense was slow to rotate and did not communicate on screens, which allowed several easy baskets around the rim.
The Hilltoppers held a 36-33 edge at the half.
The Mountaineers got off to a terrible start in the 2nd half thanks to the terrible shot selection and ball security on the offensive end. In the first four minutes, Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver combined for four jumpshots, which is not the offense you want to see if you're Bob Huggins. Emmitt Matthews Jr. threw a lazy pass across the court that was stolen and then Sean McNeil lost control of the ball which went the other for a dunk by Charles Bassey. All of that led to a 9-2 Western Kentucky run to start the half.
Just as the Hilltoppers seemed to be well in control midway through the 2nd half, West Virginia found their footing and went to work going on a massive 22-5 run. The Mountaineers began to attack the glass with Culver, Osabuohien, and Tshiebwe and it resulted in successful offensive trips. Taz Sherman hit a three in front of the West Virginia bench to give the Mountaineers a 55-52 lead with a little over eight minutes remaining.
The Mountaineers got back-to-back buckets from a Derek Culver jumper and a three-pointer from Sean McNeil to extend the lead out to 66-59.
Western Kentucky went on a 5-0 run to make things interesting, but the Mountaineers went 4-4 from the free throw line in the final seconds to put the game away.
West Virginia will head to Indianapolis next Wednesday to take on the No. 1 team in the country, Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic.
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