WVU basketball: Harris, Staten lead West Virginia past Duquesne
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It was an early-season victory over a struggling mid-major, but it felt like a lot more to the West Virginia University men's basketball team.
"It's good to get this good win," sophomore guard Eron Harris said. "Not just a little bitty win, but a good win."
A disappointing upset has a way of making perception evolve.
The Mountaineers went into Sunday afternoon's game against Duquesne looking for payback after the Dukes stunned WVU last year in Pittsburgh. Behind 33 points from Harris and 28 from junior guard Juwan Staten - both career highs - the Mountaineers pulled away from Duquesne, 96-83.
It wasn't just WVU's 60-56 loss last season to a Duquesne team that finished 8-22 that left the Mountaineers smarting. West Virginia (2-1) also was trying to rebound from a tough loss Tuesday at Virginia Tech. Put those together, Harris said, and there was more than enough motivation for the team Sunday.
"We came into this game hungry, like we were playing a rival," Harris said. "And we got a big one."
While the Dukes (1-2) never led in the second half, they tied it once - Micah Mason's 3-pointer with 14:54 left knotted the game at 59 - and cut WVU's lead to three points several times. The last came when Dominique McCoy's jumper pulled Duquesne to a 73-70 deficit with 7:58 left.
But WVU went on a 16-2 run over the next 5 minutes, 38 seconds to put the game away. Harris scored eight points and Staten scored four in that span.
WVU Coach Bob Huggins was happy to see some of his returning players put the team on their backs to get the win. He wasn't too pleased, though, that some newcomers still hadn't gotten dialed in. He said that when he entered the locker room after the game, he asked which players read the scouting report and which watched the scouting video on their iPads. His five returning players, he said, were the only ones to raise their hands on both.
"The older guys know the consequences of not being prepared," Huggins said. "Our newcomers don't know that. You'd think they would learn by this point, but they haven't. So you have to keep grinding and grinding on them until they get it."
The Mountaineers started out strong from 3-point range again, and this time they coupled that with better performance closer to the basket. That wasn't the case in WVU's loss Tuesday at Virginia Tech. In Blacksburg, the Mountaineers shot a respectable 11-for-24 from 3 (45.8 percent), but that was paired with a dismal 14-for-46 clip (30.4 percent) from inside the arc.
Against Duquesne, West Virginia made five of its first six shots from the floor and finished the first half making six of 12 3-pointers and 17 of 31 overall (54.8 percent). Harris paced the Mountaineers in the first 20 minutes, scoring 16 points and making three of four 3-pointers. Staten wasn't far behind with 14 points, including eight of 11 from the free throw line.
West Virginia led by as many as 14 in the first half after Staten's layup with 2:08 left in the half put the Mountaineers ahead, 47-33. WVU started to go cold in the final two minutes of the half, though, as Duquesne went on a 10-2 run to close the gap. The Dukes' biggest boost came with 1.4 seconds left. Mason was fouled while draining a three in the left corner, then made the ensuing free throw to send the teams into halftime with WVU up 49-43.
Duquesne Coach Jim Ferry said he could tell his team had improved from last season, but the Mountaineers got better, too.
"I thought (Sunday) was the complete opposite of last year, when you had two teams that were bad and could not score," Ferry said. "Compared to this year, when you have a lot of offense on the floor. The kids played really hard and grinded back, making it close in the second half. In the end, we could not sustain it."
WVU finished the game making 33 of 56 shots from the floor (58.9 percent) and making 10 of 18 3-pointers (55.6 percent). Staten added nine assists to his 28 points and hit 14 of 19 free throws, while Harris collected six rebounds and made six of eight 3-pointers.
Devin Williams scored a double-double with 18 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Ovie Soko led Duquesne with 19 points and led all players with 12 rebounds. Mason added 18 points, making five of seven 3-pointers.
The Mountaineers, who have won nine of their last 10 games against Duquesne and their last five versus the Dukes in Morgantown, return to the court Thursday to host Georgia Southern (7 p.m., ROOT Sports).
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.