MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Guards Juwan Staten
and Gary Browne
combined for 34 points and eight assists, and the Mountaineers made a season-high 32 free throws, as West Virginia pulled out a 74-67 win over visiting Eastern Kentucky Sunday afternoon at the WVU Coliseum.
The Colonels (10-3) erased a 16-point second half deficit to tie the game at 61-61 with 4:21 to play on a deep 3-pointer from Morgantown native Ryan Parsons.
On its next possession, forward Eric Stutz hit two free throws to give Eastern Kentucky its first lead since 15:58 of the first half.
But the Mountaineers (7-5) hit nine of 10 free throws in the final four minutes to pull away. West Virginia finished 32-of-39 on the afternoon, its most made attempts since hitting 35 against Villanova on Feb. 1, 2003.
It was a tale of two halves as the Mountaineers shot 46 percent on 13-of-28 shooting to take a 35-22 halftime lead. West Virginia made just 33 percent of its second half shots and went 0-for-5 from behind the arc.
“We don’t listen and stop running our offense, and they have hit a couple of 3s and all of a sudden they have momentum going,” said coach Bob Huggins. “And we are kind of hanging our heads. Next thing you know, here it comes.”
Eastern Kentucky climbed its way back into the contest after shooting a blistering 63 percent in the second half on 17-of-27 shooting, including eight 3-pointers.
“Sixty-three percent they shoot in the second half, that is ridiculous,” said Huggins. “And I’m not taking anything away from them, and Jeff (Neubauer) did an unbelievable job. The Celtics shouldn’t shoot 63 percent against us in here.”
EKU’s Glenn Cosey hit five 3-pointers to finish with a game-best 21 points - his sixth 20-point game of the season.
West Virginia’s Aaric Murray
and Dominique Rutledge
came up big down the stretch as Murray scored on a bucket down low to tie the game at 63-63 with 3:57 to play.
Rutledge, a 60 percent free throw shooter, later hit the first of two free throws to give WVU a 66-63 lead with 2:34 to play. West Virginia led the rest of the way as Rutledge, Browne, Murray and Staten would go 8-for-8 from the line to close the game.
“We won it at the foul line and we won it because we made some athletic plays,” added Huggins.
Brown and Staten each finished with 17 points, with Staten totaling 12 in the second half.
Eastern led in the opening two minutes before West Virginia used an 11-2 run after a three-point play from Browne to take an 11-6 lead at the 14:36 mark.
Murray put WVU on top, 31-16, with 2:19 left in the first half on a two-hand dunk in the middle of the lane after running the floor on a fast break. He finished with eight points and 12 rebounds.
Forward Deniz Kilicli
was the only other Mountaineer in double-figures, adding 10 points and five rebounds.
Guards Mike DiNunno and Orlando Williams added 10 apiece for the Colonels.
Both teams committed 13 turnovers.
The Mountaineers, now 5-0 at home, open Big 12 Conference play against Oklahoma on January 5, at the WVU Coliseum.