WVU basketball: Iowa State turns back Mountaineers, 83-74
MORGANTOWN -- Georges Niang waited until the very end to beat West Virginia when the Mountaineers played at Iowa State in January. He did equally decisive damage much earlier and more often Saturday as the Cyclones beat WVU 83-74.
Niang, the freshman forward who made a layup with three seconds to go to clinch a 69-67 win at home against WVU Jan. 16, had a list of contributions in the rematch before a crowd of 9,413 at the Coliseum.
He first turned back a WVU rally with a layup, a 3-pointer and then a blocked layup before Will Clyburn hit a layup. The Cyclones went from reeling to rolling. WVU had cut a 27-point lead to 10, but Niang's push restored order at 68-51.
The Mountaineers would respond from there with a 12-1 run and soon a layup by Matt Humphrey made it 73-65, but Niang threw in a one-handed shot as the shot clock expired to bail the Cyclones out again. Up 73-67, Niang set a screen up top late in a possession that forced a defensive switch.
That left his defender, the 6-9, 260-pound Deniz Kilicli guarding the 6-7, 210-pound Clyburn. Kilicli fouled Clyburn shooting a 3 and Clyburn made all three free throws with 1:31 left to play.
"The thing is if we started the game the way we played the second half, I think we would have beaten them by 15," Kilicli said.
In a sixth straight loss, the longest streak since ending the 2002 season with nine straight defeats, the Mountaineers shot 52.6 percent in the second half and made 9 of 16 3-point attempts. They were done in by shooting 28.6 and scoring just 20 points in the first half. WVU was down 10 points very early in the game, the 16th time that's happened in 31 games this season. The Mountaineers lost 15 of those games.
Still, they responded Saturday better than before despite a 24-point deficit at halftime.
"We played," Coach Bob Huggins said. "Earlier in the year, we may not have played that hard in the second half after playing that poorly in the first half."
Niang had 13 of his 14 points in the second half and the Cyclones (21-10, 11-7) outscored WVU by 20 points in the 32 minutes he was in the game. Clyburn had 27 and 10 rebounds. Korrie Lucious scored 21 and Chris Babb added 11. Iowa State became the third straight team to top 80 points against the Mountaineers, thanks in large part to 14 3s on 23 attempts and 56.5 percent shooting.
"I've been around this game long enough as a player and now as a coach where you do go into that mode a little bit when they hit a couple shots and you hold on tight," Coach Fred Hoiberg said after winning for the fourth time in 12 road games this season. "Thankfully we got out of it and found a way."
Hinds led the Mountaineers with 19 points, Murray, Harris and Humphrey had 11 and Terry Henderson added 10. WVU completed its worst regular since going 8-20 in 2002. The Mountaineers play Wednesday in the Big 12 Conference Tournament as either the No. 8 seed against Texas Tech. WVU is 2-0 against the Red Raiders this season. A third win would set up a third game against Kansas, which is 2-0 against WVU.Winning the tournament and getting the automatic NCAA bid is WVU's only chance to make the postseason for a 10th straight season.
"It's never too late as long as you've got a conference championship," Huggins said.
Down 55-28 after ISU's Lucious made his second three of the second half, WVU got back-to-back 3s from Hinds and later a layup that caused the Cyclones to finally panic and call a timeout. WVU continued getting stops and a 3 from Murray made the score 55-41.
But the Cyclones broke the streak with a 3 from Niang off of a quirky deflection from the middle of the paint to the left corner and then answered a third 3 from Hinds with a 3 from Babb. The lead was 17 points, but the Mountaineers surged again with another 3 from Hinds and later a score inside from Kilicli to make it 61-51 with 8:55 to go.
Niang then stepped in and spun the game back to the Cyclones.
The Mountaineers trailed 44-20 at halftime and once again found themselves down by double digits discouragingly early in the game. The Cyclones made 4 of 7 shots and three 3s in the opening 4:07 on senior day honoring Kilicli, Humphrey and Dominique Rutledge. A pair of free throws from Clyburn put them ahead 13-3. WVU had missed seven straight shots and five of them were 3s.
"I think we were a little emotional in the first half," Henderson said. "We came out starting the game emotional and things didn't go as played. We were thinking too much, especially on defense. We knew they could shoot, but emotions were running high and we weren't focused defensively and they were getting too many wide-open shots they shouldn't have gotten. Eventually, that hurt us down the line."
Iowa State was 8-for-13 shooting before the Mountaineers switched to a zone defense, but that didn't work because players didn't extend deep enough to cover shooters. The Cyclones, who are No. 4 nationally in scoring and lead the NCAA in 3s made per game and overall, found spots and exploited them. Lucious, Babb and Tyrus McGee all made deep 3s to go ahead 33-16 and force WVU into a timeout.
"We came out like we didn't know they could shoot," Kilicli said.
Gary Browne then turned the ball over when play resumed and Iowa State turned that into a Clyburn layup. After a WVU miss, a free throw from Niang ended a 10-0 run, that after a 12-0 run earlier in the half. The half would end on an 8-0 run. WVU ended the half missing its final eight shots and 10 of 12 after making three in a row to get inside of double digits, 25-16.
The Cyclones had 16 baskets on 27 shots. WVU had half as many baskets on one more shot. Iowa State made 8 of 13 3-point attempts. The Mountaineers made 1-of-13 and missed their final 11 attempts. Clyburn had 16 points in the first half and Lucious had 11. WVU's starting five had 11.