The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 27, 2014

WVU drops third straight

MORGANTOWN — Iowa State was out for revenge and got it, handing West Virginia University a devastating third straight loss since the Mountaineers had pounded the Cyclones by 25 points at home two weeks ago.

With a frenzied sellout crowd of 14,384 out for blood and riding WVU’s leading scorer Eron Harris every time he touched the ball, the Cyclones pounded the Mountaineers, 83-66.

The loss dropped the Mountaineers to 7-8 in Big 12 play and to 15-13 overall with three games left to play, last-place TCU next and then Oklahoma before closing with first-place Kansas. To have any shot at NCAA play WVU would have to beat Oklahoma and Kansas and then win a couple of games in the Big 12 Tournament, a tall order for a short team.

WVU fell behind by 14 points at one point in the first half and cut the deficit to six at halftime, then fell behind by 11 in the second half before cutting the margin to four behind Juwan Staten, who played himself into cramps with 19 points and four assists, and Remi Dibo, who scored 14 with 7 rebounds.

But in the end they never did defend, allowing Iowa State to shoot 50.8 percent, 45 percent from 3.

Once again, WVU was buried inside, the Cyclones outscoring the Mountaineers, 46-24. In the three-game losing streak they have been outscored 130-50 in the paint.

While for the second straight game they collared the league’s leading scorer, Melvin Ejim, holding him to 7 points after stopping him with 6 at home, they could not solve center Georges Niang.

“We did a horrible job on Niang,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said.

Before the game, Huggins was singing the praises of Niang and talking about how hard he is to handle.

“Niang is the most skilled post player in the league and they run a lot offense through him,” Huggins said. “People say he has an old man’s game, the kind of game you see someone play in the 35-and-over league, but it’s very effective.”

He went out and proved it.

Upset over what had happened in Morgantown and vowing revenge, Niang schooled the Mountaineers with 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

“They are similar to us, but we don’t have anyone who can pass the ball. Niang is so good because he pass the ball,” Huggins said.

He also caused defensive problems for Harris, who was frustrated all night. True, he scored 15 points, but was 4-for-14 from the field and 0-for-5 from 3-point range.

“He was forcing things,” Huggins said. “They did a good job on him and he forced things. You take Terry Henderson out of the deal and they put so much attention on Eron. They put Niang in the lane and Eron couldn’t back cut and couldn’t curl. They turned him into a jump shooter.”

And he wasn’t hitting.

The atmosphere, as you might guess after WVU’s 102-77 victory in Morgantown and Eron Harris’ altercation that led to his ejection at home, was electric.

Or more like an electric chair for the Mountaineers as the folks in Ames were looking for an execution.

It was so bad that at the team meal earlier in the day a fan dropped in and warned them that “payback is hell.”

Talking of the incident and the atmosphere before the game, Huggins said, “We didn’t start it. A lot of people have seen the pictures. They were frustrated. It was one guy who was in on the whole deal.

“I’m sure they’re looking for revenge, but more in a basketball way than anything else. It’s like we felt against Kansas State, can’t wait to get at them again.”

Huggins chatted with his team about what it might expect from the atmosphere but maybe someone should have talked to him because by halftime he had a technical … but that’s how the game was going early.

WVU couldn’t make its shots, Harris seemed rattled by the atmosphere and they found themselves down by as many as 14 points.

But once again this is a team that fights hard and while it never put things really together, hitting just 1 of 10 from 3-point range in the first half, they battled back late and cut the Iowa State lead to just six points, 39-33.

With Harris not shooting well and Terry Henderson out for the second straight game, Staten put the scoring load on his shoulders and scored 12 first half points and got some unexpected help from Devin Williams, who added eight points.

The second half was a hodgepodge of depressing moments and times when it appeared WVU might be able to do something it has been unable to do all year – come from behind to win a game.

Down six at the half, Iowa State came out and scored the first five points of the second half and never really stopped scoring.

Why should they as WVU could not defend them, Niang.

 NOTES: WVU juniors Kevin Noreen and Gary Browne were among 29 student-athletes named to the 2014 Academic All-Big 12 basketball team. Noreen made the first team for the second consecutive season while Brown was named to the second team for the first time. There were 16 members of the first team and 13 on the second team. First team members earned grade point averages of 3.20 or better and second team 3.00 to 3.19. ... West Virginia won the opening tip in the game, which doesn’t sound like much until you realize they had lost the opening tip in every Big 12 game this year, 13 games in a row.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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