MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP)—Kevin Jones scored 20 points to lead four West Virginia players in double figures as the Mountaineers held off Oral Roberts 78-71 on Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
Oral Roberts, the preseason pick to win the Summit League, gave the Mountaineers all they could handle.
But the young Mountaineers got contributions from several players—Darryl “Truck” Bryant finished with 17 points, Deniz Kilicli 11 and freshman Aaron Browne added 10.
Bryant scored West Virginia’s final eight points, including 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
Oral Roberts, which trailed 72-71 with 2:44 to play, also had four players in double figures: Dominique Morrison had a game-high 21 points, Michael Craion scored 18, Warren Niles 14 and Steven Roundtree tallied 11.
West Virginia shot 58.8 percent from the field (30 of 51), but Oral Roberts’ 22 free throws kept the Golden Eagles close throughout. West Virginia was 13 of 17 from the foul line.
“We can’t put them on the line 30 times and us 17,” said Mountaineer scoach Bob Huggins “The foul disparity we can’t have.”
Oral Roberts outscored West Virginia 10-2 to cut a 12-point deficit to 70-66 when Bryant, playing with four fouls, went to the line for the first of his game-ending scores. His free throws with 4:30 left gave the Mountaineers a 72-66 lead. Those would be all the points the Mountaineers would need.
Craion, who had scored eight of the Golden Eagles’ 10 points to pull his team close, made two free throws and teammate Niles drained a 3-pointer to get within one.
Bryant answered for the Mountaineers. He cut through the lane untouched for a layup that gave West Virginia a three-point cushion. He also scored the final four points of the game.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has three returning starters, but is working with seven new players—including six freshmen. At times, it showed.
“There’s going to be some growing pains for them. I really think that team’s going to be a good basketball team when it’s all said and done,” said Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton.
The Mountaineers, who led by as many as 14 points in the first half, were up 59-45 with 10:30 to play when the experienced Golden Eagles started to climb back into the game. The Golden Eagles returned six of their top seven players from last season, only missing Ken Holdman, a guard who tore a knee ligament in an exhibition on Sunday.
Sutton used full-court pressure to whittle down the Mountaineers’ cushion. But West Virginia shot 60 percent in the second half to hold on for the win.
“We don’t get outrebounded 37-24 by anybody, and that’s ridiculous,” Huggins said. “To have the size we have and not rebound the ball is ridiculous. We just didn’t do a very good job.”
Jones gave Mountaineers fans a scare when he went down after an Browne layup that gave West Virginia a 65-54 lead with 7:55 to go. After stretching his leg on the sideline, he returned after a timeout and pronounced himself fit.
“I went knee-to-knee, his knee hit the side of my knee, and my knee just like gave out for a little second; but I’m fine and there’s no need to worry,” Jones said. “I got right back up, so just put some ice on it and I’ll be fine.”