Nov. 7—MORGANTOWN — Ofri Naveh hauled in the ball just past half court, but seeing how he was tightly guarded and in an awkward position to begin with, he had little chance to go anywhere.
So the freshman simply tipped the ball over to teammate Josiah Harris, who had an open runway to the rim.
Dunk. Game over. Win No. 1 one for WVU men's basketball coach Josh Eilert.
It certainly wasn't, as the Mountaineers let an 11-point lead slip away in the first half and then nearly let another 11-point advantage turn to ashes in the final minutes.
"The first win is always an important one, it's big, " said WVU center Jesse Edwards who finished with a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. "Basketball-wise, there's going to be a lot to take away from this game, a lot to learn from."
Things started out just fine in the Eilert era, as the Mountaineers (1-0) used a flurry of foul shots and big-boy shots from Edwards to jump out to a 15-4 lead.
Edwards' and-one three-point play with 14:07 left in the first half seemed to have WVU poised for a big run.
The basket did end up being a significant mark for WVU ... it was the Mountaineers' final basket of the half.
What followed was 21 consecutive misses, as the Bears (0-1) came back to take a 30-24 halftime lead.
The misses came from as close as two feet to about 26 and just about everywhere in between.
"Nothing was easy in that first half, " Eilert said. "We had guys breaking out of our offense. I want to use the word selfish, but I don't want to use selfish, because they mean well. Sometimes you they get a little frustrated and a little ball pressure and they want to put their head down and drive it."
The other explanation ? As Quinn Slazinski put it in only a way he can, "I don't want this to sound the wrong way, but it was almost borderline hilarious, " he said after scoring 18 points and adding seven rebounds. "We came into halftime and we were like, 'We're going to set a world record for (lowest) field-goal percentage.' This was not going to happen in the second half."
After spending the first 20 minutes of the game making just 4 of 32 shots (12.5 %), WVU came out and made its first five shots of the second half to take a 47-40 lead.
"It was definitely a tale of two halves, " Eilert said.
Just how different was it ? WVU guard Seth Wilson simply couldn't buy a bucket in the first half, but then came out and scored all 11 of his points in the first seven minutes of the second half.
That included an off-balanced 3-pointer with 12:46 remaining that forced Missouri State head coach Dana Ford to call a timeout.
Slazinski got going, too, as WVU went 6 of 11 from 3-point range in the second half.
"The biggest difference was trust, " Wilson said. "The first half, I don't think we knew what each other was going to do and how to go about it. The second half, we just started to trust each other and that was the difference."
Even with all of that, Missouri State never quite went away. Alston Mason nailed a mid-range jumper and then teammate Chance Moore hit about a 26-foot 3-pointer that cut WVU's lead to 61-59 with 41 seconds remaining.
Slazinski followed that with a drive to the basket for two points, before Moore's missed three eventually ended up in the hands of Naveh, who found Harris for that game-sealing dunk.
"At halftime, we just kind of looked at ourselves, " Slazinski said. "We needed to play with some (swagger) and we needed to play West Virginia basketball. We ended up sharing the ball a lot in the second half. That second half, we were playing really well."
Notes — Eilert became the 20th WVU men's hoops head coach to win his first game at the school. WVU coaches are now 20-2 in their debuts, with Sonny Moran and George Pyle the only ones who lost their first game. — WVU is now 99-16 all-time in season openers.
Box Score West Virginia 67, Missouri St. 59 MISSOURI ST. (0-1)
WEST VIRGINIA (1-0)
Harris 3-8 2-2 9, Slazinski 4-10 8-9 18, J.Edwards 4-7 5-7 13, Johnson 4-14 0-0 8, Wilson 4-15 0-0 11, Naveh 1-4 1-2 4, Suemnick 2-3 0-0 4, Bembry 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-63 16-20 67.
Halftime—Missouri St. 30-24. 3-Point Goals—Missouri St. 9-29 (Moore 5-13, Mason 3-5, C.Edwards 1-3, Ayres 0-1, Bey 0-2, Lee 0-5), West Virginia 7-21 (Wilson 3-5, Slazinski 2-4, Naveh 1-2, Harris 1-3, J.Edwards 0-1, Suemnick 0-1, Johnson 0-5). Rebounds—Missouri St. 38 (Clay 9), West Virginia 38 (J.Edwards 13). Assists—Missouri St. 14 (Lee 7), West Virginia 13 (Johnson 4). Total Fouls—Missouri St. 17, West Virginia 12. A—9, 691 (14, 000).