In its season opener against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, the West Virginia men’s basketball team look flustered early on, but fixed first half mistakes to win, 60-53.
In the first half, West Virginia (1-0) had a forgettable performance for 20 minutes as it turned the ball over seven times and was outrebounded, 26-19. Oakland (0-1) came out of the gates swinging and took its largest lead of the game at 9-3, less than five minutes into the game.
The Mountaineers settled down and began to close the gap and eventually retook the lead on a 9-0 scoring run in the final minutes of the half. Guard Taz Sherman knocked down the first three-pointer for WVU in the half to take the lead for the first time at 20-18.
With less than three minutes remaining in the half, WVU and Oakland traded baskets as West Virginia took a 27-23 lead into the half. Sherman led all scorers as he put up nine points on 3-of-9 (33%) shooting from the field.
To begin the second half, the Mountaineers looked like a new team. In just the first five minutes, West Virginia built its lead to 11 as forward Jalen Bridges put a scoreless first half behind him and scored five — he finished with seven points.
West Virginia had Oakland on the ropes with a 23-8 run in the first nine minutes of the half. The WVU lead ballooned to as much as 17 before Oakland cut into the deficit.
Oakland quickly made things interesting and made it a six-point game, but the Mountaineers had just enough glue to keep the ship together. Despite a late push by the Golden Grizzlies, WVU hung on to win, 60-53, and began the new season undefeated.
Only two players finished in double-digits in scoring for the Mountaineers with Sherman finishing with 18 and McNeil scoring 11 points — nine in the second half. As a team, West Virginia shot 39.7% from the field and 4-of-21 (19%) from three-point range.
West Virginia was also outrebounded, 48-33, and it committed 14 turnovers.
The leading scorer for Oakland was forward Jamal Cain with 15 points. Forward Micah Parish finished with a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Up next, West Virginia will face the Pittsburgh Panthers in the Backyard Brawl on Friday at the WVU Coliseum. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on ESPNU.