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Turnover-plagued Mountaineers put up a fight, but fall on the road to No. 6 Iowa State

Feb. 24—The script was clear for West Virginia on Saturday. When the Mountaineers played within themselves and controlled the ball, they kept pace and even out-played the No. 6 team in the country, Iowa State. However, when WVU got sped up and was careless with the ball, the Cyclones took over en route to a 71-64 victory inside the Hilton Coliseum in Ames.

West Virginia (9-18, 4-10 Big 12) committed just one turnover in the first five minutes of play and led Iowa State (21-6, 10-4) 11-5 at the first media timeout.

Perfect shooting from beyond the arch by Kerr Kriisa, RaeQuan Battle and Quinn Slazinski had WVU up 11-2 less than four minutes into the game.

After that, however, the Cyclones, who lead the league in forcing turnovers, got the Mountaineers off schedule for the rest of the first half.

Whether it was throwing up shots too early in the shot clock, forcing up low-percentage tries or just turning the ball over outright, which WVU did a season-high 23 times, the Mountaineer offense struggled to regain consistency.

"Preparing to play against a team like that is hard, " coach Josh Eilert said. "It's hard to simulate their tenacity on defense."

"That's as good a defense as we'll see all year, them and Houston rival each other."

After turning it over just once in its great first five minutes, WVU turned it over 10 times from the first media timeout until halftime. The Cyclones converted those into 17 points.

"Part of toughness is willing to face adversity and face that ball pressure and I didn't think we did a very good job in that regard, " Eilert said.

Despite trailing by 10 at the break to a team that hasn't lost at home this season, West Virginia didn't fold in the second half. Far from it as the Mountaineers once again started a half by outplaying the Cyclones. While that lasted for just five minutes in the first half, it went on for nearly 11 in the second.

WVU's push culminated when junior Kobe Johnson, whose last three-pointer before Saturday came on Jan. 20, nailed his second trey of the game to put the Mountaineers up 51-50 with nine minutes remaining.

"Credit to West Virginia, they did a great job of keeping us off-balance mixing up zone and man (defenses) throughout the course of the game, " Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said.

However, just like in the first half, Iowa State's defense made the adjustments to get the Mountaineers off track. The Cyclones' response was to play an aggressive half-court defense that forced more turnovers and more poor shots from the Mountaineer on the way to a 14-0 scoring run.

A Kriisa three-pointer finally stopped the bleeding, but by then ISU's 10-point lead had been restored, 64-54, and there were only three minutes left to play.

"A critical stat going into the game was how we were going to handle their pressure, ' Eilert said. "We didn't take care of the ball and kind of lost our poise in some situations, which led to the end result."

West Virginia committed a dozen turnovers in the second half, leading to 12 more points for Iowa State. In total, the Cyclones scored 29 points off of a season-high 23 WVU turnovers. Kriisa and center Jessee Edwards were the main offenders with five each and Josiah Harris had four off the bench.

This came on a day when the Mountaineers shot over 40 % (10-24) from range and over 80 % (10-12) from the foul line. Kriisa's 12 points came on four three-pointers and Johnson matched him with 12 and a pair of threes to tie for the team lead in points. Slazinski finished with 11 points while Edwards had 10 and eight rebounds.

"We lost by seven, but they got 14 more shots than we did, 'Eilert said. "That's hard to overcome on the road, especially against a team as good as Iowa State is."

For comparison, ISU was 7-22 (31.8 %) from deep and 10-15 (66 %) from the line. Tamin Lipsey led with a game-high 14 points, supported by 12 from Curtis Jones off the bench.

WVU will stay on the road with a quick turnaround to face Kansas State inside Bramlage Coliseum on Monday at 7 p.m.

BOX SCORE Iowa St. 71, West Virginia 64 Slazinski 3-6 3-3 11, Edwards 4-5 2-3 10, Battle 2-11 4-4 9, Johnson 5-7 0-1 12, Kriisa 4-7 0-0 12, Harris 2-4 1-1 5, Farrakhan 2-4 0-0 5, Akok 0-2 0-0 0, Suemnick 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-46 10-12 64.

R.Jones 2-3 2-3 6, King 4-6 0-0 8, Momcilovic 3-10 0-0 8, Gilbert 3-8 2-2 8, Lipsey 4-9 4-7 14, C.Jones 5-14 0-0 12, Ward 3-5 0-1 6, Paveletzke 3-5 2-2 9, Watson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-60 10-15 71.

Halftime—Iowa St. 40-30. 3-Point Goals—West Virginia 10-24 (Kriisa 4-7, Johnson 2-3, Slazinski 2-4, Farrakhan 1-2, Battle 1-6, Akok 0-1, Harris 0-1), Iowa St. 7-22 (Lipsey 2-2, Momcilovic 2-6, C.Jones 2-9, Paveletzke 1-2, King 0-1, Gilbert 0-2). Rebounds—West Virginia 25 (Edwards 8), Iowa St. 27 (King, Ward 5). Assists—West Virginia 14 (Edwards, Johnson 3), Iowa St. 12 (Lipsey 6). Total Fouls—West Virginia 16, Iowa St. 15. A—14, 267 (14, 384).