MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP)—No. 23 West Virginia gave Seton Hall a dose of its own tactics.
After nearly letting a 12-point lead slip away, the Mountaineers converted steals on three consecutive possessions during a 13-0 run that carried them to an 81-71 win over the Pirates on Saturday.
The Mountaineers forced 15 turnovers and made 12 steals against a team that leads the Big East in steals, but managed just seven Saturday.
“We know we’re capable of getting steals and we were real active with our hands and confused them in the zone,” said West Virginia’s Frank Young, who scored seven of his 18 points in the decisive run. “I’m just trying to do things as a senior and a leader to help us seal the game. We want to get that win that gets us into the (NCAA) tournament.”
West Virginia (20-6, 8-5 Big East) bounced back from an 18-point loss Monday at No. 14 Georgetown to reach 20 wins for the third straight season, the first time the Mountaineers have done that since 1984-87. Before the game, the Mountaineers dedicated a bronze statue outside their arena to alumnus Jerry West.
“You can manufacture 20 wins with a fairly good team sometimes,” West Virginia coach John Beilein said. “But it’s hard to get eight Big East wins. That’s what feels good. Eight wins is pretty good.”
Seton Hall, which lost to West Virginia for the second time in two weeks, is trying to qualify for the conference tournament. The Pirates (12-13, 3-9) fell into a tie with South Florida for 13th place in the 16-team conference. Only the top 12 teams qualify.
“We made a lot of adjustments from the first game, and we did not want to get swept,” Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said. “When it comes down to crunch time, West Virginia, with its length, started to tighten up a little bit, and all of the sudden a couple of our moves turned into a flick and a deflection and a couple of steals, and that’s the difference.”
Seton Hall got to 64-62 on Paul Gause’s layup with 5:36 left, but the Pirates scored just nine points the rest of the game.
Seton Hall, which gives up a Big East-worst 72 points per game, scored 40 points in the paint, but allowed three big runs in dropping its sixth straight conference road game.
Young made a 3-pointer and a pair of layups following steals during a 13-0 run that gave the Mountaineers their largest lead, 77-62, with 1:45 remaining.
West Virginia has won 13 of 14 home games this season.
“I loved the way we responded to some adversity today,” Beilein said. “We tried to pull away, and all of a sudden they are back in the game twice. The third time, we kept them away. Frank Young was the key to that. He is a steadying influence out there.”
Darris Nichols added 17 points, and Alex Ruoff and Joe Alexander had 13 apiece for West Virginia. Da’Sean Butler finished with 11. It marked the third time this season West Virginia has had five players in double figures.
Eugene Harvey scored 19 points before fouling out for Seton Hall. Brian Laing scored 16, and Gause and Stan Gaines had 12 apiece.
Before the game, a ceremony was held to dedicate the statue to West, the NBA Hall of Famer and Memphis Grizzlies’ president of basketball operations who set more than a dozen school records from 1956 to 1960. His son Jonnie is a freshman with the Mountaineers and is being redshirted.
“I have never, frankly, gotten excited about any personal accolade,” West said. “The only thing that was important to me was to win and compete. That’s what I’ve loved in my life. For something like this to happen and particularly in the place that’s helped make me the person I am today … this will always be a part of my life.”