West Virginia 68, Duquesne 63
PITTSBURGH (AP)—West Virginia coach Bob Huggins knew Ron Everhart when the Duquesne coach was an eager-to-learn high school player who sought Huggins’ attention during summer camps. Among the lessons taught: toughness and aggressiveness can be as important to winning as good shooting and playmaking.
Everhart probably didn’t know 30 years ago how Huggins’ philosophy might prove telling during a competitive game in which neither of the coaches’ teams shot well and toughness overcame inexperience.
Darryl Bryant scored 18 points and West Virginia withstood a 12-point deficit by holding Duquesne without a basket for 11 minutes and controlling the backboards to rally for a 68-63 victory Saturday night.
Bryant scored all but six of his points in the second half as the Mountaineers (7-2), playing without injured guards Alex Ruoff and Joe Mazzulla, surged back to defeat Duquesne (5-3) for the sixth consecutive season.
Devin Eubanks had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Wellington Smith scored 12 and John Flowers had 10 rebounds as West Virginia outrebounded the Dukes 53-31, a major key during the Mountaineers’ second-half surge.
“When you miss that many, you’ve got to get used to going and getting them,” Huggins said. “We didn’t make any shots.”
The Mountaineers, bouncing back from a 68-65 loss to No. 23 Davidson, overcame some horrendous shooting at times—they were 3-of-23 from 3-point range—to hold off an undersized and freshman-laden Duquesne team that has played No. 3 Pittsburgh and No. 7 Duke among its last four games.
“We knew how physical it was going to be,” said Everhart, a former West Virginia high school player who first got to know Huggins when the Mountaineers coach played for his alma mater. “I’ve known coach (Huggins) long enough to know how tough it was going to be. A couple of rebounds we couldn’t get were as important as the shots we missed. We missed shots we’ve been making.”
Duquesne went without a basket from the 2:22 mark of the first half when B.J. Monteiro scored, during an 11-0 Dukes run that gave them a 33-21 lead, until Aaron Jackson hit a driving layup with 11:22 left.
West Virginia outscored Duquesne 27-6 while turning the 12-point deficit into a 48-39 advantage, then held on after Duquesne cut it to 60-58 on Jackson’s basket with a minute remaining.
Bryant made six free throws in the final minute to seal it as David Theis and Damian Saunders each missed shots that could have gotten the Dukes to within two points each time.
With the two injured guards out, Bryant, a freshman, played a season-high 36 minutes after not playing more than 27 minutes until Saturday. His previous scoring high was 16 against Longwood. Eubanks, another freshman, has 44 rebounds while finishing in double figures in points and rebounds during his last three games.
“Who knows if they’re coming back? They may not be back, so we better get some guys on the floor who are going to play. I coach the guys who are there,” Huggins said, and not entirely seriously, of Ruoff and Mazzulla. “If I were them, I wouldn’t sit there very long because other guys are getting better.”
West Virginia’s key basket may have been Smith’s drive as the buzzer sounded to end the first half, after two Jackson free throws restored Duquesne’s double-digit lead at 35-25. Smith’s basket started a 14-0 run in which Bryant scored twice, Kevin Jones hit a 3-pointer and Eubanks’ putback made it 39-35.
“We came out flat, and that kind of woke them up and we had a scoring drought,” Jackson said. “They came out harder on both ends that we did, that layup at the end of the first half gave them momentum. They did a real good job of getting offensive rebounds, and that right there won the game. That was frustrating.”
Duquesne missed its first 13 shots in the second half and didn’t score until Jackson’s free throw with 12:50 remaining.
Jackson, coming off a 36-point game against Radford, scored 19, Saunders had 16 and Bill Clark had 13 for Duquesne, which shot only 38.9 percent (21-of-54)— though that was better than West Virginia’s 37.1 percent (26-of-70).
West Virginia, playing on the road for the sixth time in seven games, was especially dominant on the offensive boards, holding a 26-9 advantage that gave the Mountaineers repeated second and third chances and negated a Duquesne press that worked well during the first half.
“We’re coming along. They really had to work for a shot,” Saunders said. “We tightened up as a team, but we’ve got to rebound more.”