WVU's Comeback Falls Short

  • By John Antonik
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  • January 17, 2013 12:16 AM
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West Virginia’s wild second half comeback ended a layup short. Georges Niang’s basket with three seconds left helped Iowa State escape with a 69-67 victory over the Mountaineers Wednesday night at Hilton Coliseum.

Trailing by 18 points with 9:04 remaining, West Virginia staged a furious comeback by using a four-guard lineup and the 3-point shooting of Eron Harris, Matt Humphrey and Jabarie Hinds. After missing its first 12 3-point field goal attempts, the Mountaineers hit 9 of 12 down the stretch, including Hinds’ step-back 3 to tie the game at 67 with 11.6 seconds left.

Following Hinds’ 3 and an Iowa State timeout, the Cyclones got the basketball to 6-foot-7 guard Will Clyburn on the wing where he was able to draw a double team and pass the ball to a wide open Niang standing underneath the basket for the winning goal.

West Virginia center Aaric Murray’s inbound pass to midcourt went to Harris, where he was knocked down while attempting to advance the ball for a possible game-winning shot as the clock expired. Game over.

“I left Aaric in hoping he could block a shot. They penetrate, he came to help and we didn’t make a rotation and they get a layup,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “We just continue to shoot ourselves in the foot by not making rotations and diving into the basket.”

It was the second down-to-the wire ending for West Virginia, which falls to 8-8, 1-3 after tonight’s loss. Last Saturday, Kansas State got the game’s deciding points on a pair of free throws by Shane Southwell with 21.4 seconds left.

West Virginia scored the first seven points of the game and led 11-3 before Iowa State caught fire from 3. The Cyclones (12-4, 2-1) claimed their first lead of the game, 20-18, on Anthony Booker's 3 from the wing and took a 29-26 advantage into the locker room at halftime.

Early in the second half, it looked like Iowa State was going to name its score when Melvin Ejim, Korie Lucious, Chris Babb and Clyburn took over the game, but the momentum began to turn when Harris busted West Virginia’s first 3 in transition with 10:58 remaining. Before that, the Mountaineers misfired on their first 12 from behind the arc with several of those missing badly.

Hinds followed with another 3 and Matt Humphrey came off the bench to hit consecutive triples to reduce Iowa State’s lead to nine, 56-47. A Harris jumper from the corner and a Juwan Staten drive to the basket cut Iowa State’s margin to seven, 58-51, and following a pair of Babb free throws, Harris drilled two more 3s, the second one coming with 3:42 left to make it 60-57.

Harris finished the game with a season-high 17 points on 4 of 7 shooting from behind the arc.

"They made tough shots," said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. "We had a hand in their face and I thought we had two lazy closeouts and that's when they got their rhythm going. A lot of those shots were bombs and if they hit those you just shake their hand and I'm glad we got the win."

Hinds led all scorers with a career-high 20, although he was just 8 of 22 from the floor. Humphrey, who last played against Radford back on Dec. 22, finished the game with 9 points.

Kevin Noreen grabbed 10 rebounds in 29 minutes of action.

The lineup Huggins used to get back in the game featured Noreen at forward and four guards – Harris, Hinds, Staten and Humphrey.

“The truth of the matter is this team was built to play in the Big East - we’ve got big, physical people and this is not a big, physical league by any stretch of the imagination,” said Huggins. “Everybody is playing smaller, quicker guys and we’re just going to have to go small and take our chances because playing with those big guys hasn’t worked.”

West Virginia was one guard down when freshman Terry Henderson didn’t make the trip because of a lower back injury and then a second guard, Gary Browne, twisted his ankle in the first half and spent the second half sitting on the bench with an icebag on his ankle.

Ejim led Iowa State with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Lucious contributed 15 while Babb and Clyburn finished with 11 each.

Iowa State extends its home court winning streak to 17 games while seeing another streak end. The Cyclones entered tonight as the only remaining team in the nation to score at least 70 points in every game this season.

“I’m proud of our guys,” said Huggins.

Iowa State plays at TCU on Saturday while West Virginia steps outside of Big 12 play one final time to face Purdue in West Lafayette on Saturday. That game will be televised nationally on CBS.

Bob Huggins Postgame Remarks, Courtesy Cyclones.TV