WVU basketball scored as many points in the first eight minutes Saturday night as they did the entire first half in Friday’s game. However, a strong second half from Deonte Burton and the Cyclones was too much for the ‘Eers to overcome.
Things looked great for West Virginia early in Saturday’s contest; Elijah Macon was active on the offensive glass creating second-chance points; Jevon Carter‘s jumper looked smooth after an off-game Friday, scoring 7 first half points against Iowa State; and the turnovers were kept to a minimum.
It just wasn’t meant to be, though.
Deonte Burton is one of the most versatile players in the country and showed off his rare skill-set versus the Mountaineers. He’d foul out, but not before totaling 16 points, five rebounds, two assists, three steals and one block. Burton shot 7-for-11 from the field, including his two makes in as many attempts from three. I like to think of Burton as a Diet Julius Randle, or Julius Randle Lite. He’s a bit smaller than the 6’9″ Randle, but Burton possesses a better handle and seems to find open teammates more than the former Kentucky star.
Four players scored in double figures for the Mounties. Carter led the team with 18 and Macon, Esa Ahmad and Daxter Miles, Jr. each pitched in 10. Senior Nathan Adrian was the only starter not in double figures. Teyvon Myers and Tarik Phillip each scored nine off the bench.
West Virginia lost in last year’s Big 12 Championship Game to Kansas. They lost in this year’s Big 12 Championship Game to Iowa State, while Kansas was sitting at home after losing their opening round Big 12 tourney game. You won’t hear about that a lot, though.
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Kansas is the only team that can get away with continually failing in their conference tournament. Is that because Bill Self’s dominated the (regular) season during his Kansas-run? Certainly. But Bob Huggins is currently coaching his fifth 25-win team at WVU, this year being the third consecutive season – and that number can still grow.
Should Mountaineer Nation be disappointed their team didn’t win the Big 12 Tournament? Absolutely! If you’re not, what kind of fan are you? Should they be surprised, though? Not exactly. Let me explain.
I heard a saying once that went something like this, “It’s hard enough beating a good team once, let alone twice in the same year.” I heard it during football season, but it’s applicable to basketball too, especially when talking about conference opponents.
Saturday was the third time this season that Iowa State and West Virginia met. WVU won the first two games, both by double digits; once on Jan. 31 (85-72, WVU), and again in the regular season finale on March 3 (87-76, WVU). One thing the Mountaineers want to do is force turnovers, but the Cyclones committed less than 16 in all three contests.
It’s not rocket-science figuring out how to attack Press Virginia, it’s just exhausting. Experience and patience can take you a long way, and that’s exactly how the Cyclones were able to do it.
Late in the game Saturday, Iowa State threw two or three passes into the crowd because of the pressure. West Virginia turned around and got fouled, but couldn’t make their free throws! They only shot 8 of 17, a woeful 47.1 percent. Without an improvement in this area, the Madness you hear about in March will turn to Sadness rather quickly.
Prior to the Big 12 Championship, most people had the Mountaineers pegged as a 3-or 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Selection Sunday starts at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 12, airing on CBS. The tournament will start on Tuesday with the First Four In games in Dayton, Ohio, while the first round tips off on March 16. The National Championship will be April 3.