For the first time since the 2016-17 season, the West Virginia men’s basketball team opened the regular season with a victory.

Despite a late scare, the Mountaineers defeated the visiting Akron Zips on Friday night, winning by a final score of 94-84.

West Virginia (1-0) started the game a bit sluggish, falling behind by as much as six before shifting direction and taking the lead five minutes into the game. 

After Akron’s Tyler Cheese kicked off the game with two consecutive three-pointers, Emmitt Matthews Jr. countered on behalf of the Mountaineers. In the game’s first five minutes, Matthews connected on three three-point attempts to help WVU take the lead.

Once West Virginia came ahead, the Mountaineers never looked back. Outside of one moment were the Zips were able to tie it back up, the WVU lead never faced a serious threat in the first half. 

The Mountaineers went into halftime holding a 14 point advantage over the Zips. As the second half went on, the WVU lead never dipped below six.

In the second half, West Virginia continued to knock down shots, finishing the half with a 7% increase in scoring from the field.

Akron (0-1) attempted to mount a comeback effort late in the game. Despite Xeyrius Williams contributing a team-leading 20 points, the Zips were unable to shorten the gap to fewer than six points prior to the final horn.

West Virginia featured strong performances from sophomore Derek Culver, who scored 16 points and hauled in seven rebounds, as well as senior Jermaine Haley, who shot six-of-seven from the field and four-of-nine from the free throw line to end the night with 16 total points.

The Mountaineers are off until next Friday when they will travel north to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers. The 7:00 p.m. tipoff will be broadcast live from the Petersen Events Center on ESPNU.