West Virginia suffered their first loss on Thursday, falling 74-73 to the LSU Tigers in a back and forth battle at the WVU Coliseum.
A Josh Gray layup in the final seconds followed by a Juwan Staten missed jumper gave the Tigers the win in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
For the first time all season, Bob Huggins went with a different starting lineup, with Nathan Adrian replacing Jaysean Paige and joining Juwan Staten, Daxter Miles, Jonathan Holton, and Devin Williams to begin the game. Paige, though, was inserted into the lineup a couple minutes in and did start the second half.
Brandon Watkins made his season debut four minutes into the game after two quick fouls kept Devin Williams on the bench for most of the half. The plan was for Watkins to have his minutes be very limited, but foul trouble resulted in him seeing quite a bit of action in the half. BillyDee Williams also saw the floor for the first time all season, but a couple fouls & mistakes resulted in a quick hook by Huggins.
Jonathan Holton took a hard elbow to the nose from Elbert Robinson early on, but was able to return after a few minutes in the locker room.
The Tigers had the lead for most of the first twenty minutes, but an Elijah Macon and-1 in the final minute gave the Mountaineers a 39-37 lead and then Macon followed that up with this:
Elijah gave WVU some very solid minutes to finish the half and West Virginia held a 43-38 lead at the break, after playing so-so at best.
The Mountaineers blitzed LSU to begin the second half, scoring the first 9 points and grabbing a double digit lead. Just when it looked like the game was going to get out of hand, West Virginia went cold and LSU battled back to tie the game at 56.
The game was back-n-forth the rest of the way, with a Keith Hornsby three giving LSU a 72-71 lead with 30 seconds to go. After WVU called timeout, a Jarell Martin foul on the inbounds pass sent Jonathan Holton to the line. Holton missed the one-and-one, but Daxter Miles came out of nowhere to tip the ball in and give the Mountaineers a one point lead. A Josh Gray layup (with no help defense) with seven seconds left put LSU back in the lead, and Juwan Staten missed a jumper in the final seconds to give the Tigers a 74-73 victory.
With the lack of depth by LSU (playing four players 30+ minutes a night), it was expected that the pressure of West Virginia would eventually wear the Tigers down. It didn't happen. They fought all night. Impressive team.
West Virginia forced 24 turnovers. They were outrebounded by LSU 44-36.
The Mountaineers were led by Juwan Staten with 17 points, 4 assists, and 4 steals. Daxter Miles scored 13 and Tarik Phillip added 12 and 5 rebounds.
Tim Quarterman paced LSU with 21. Josh Gray only had 7, but hit the most important shot of the night. Jarell Martin added 18.
- It wasn't sold out, but there was a solid crowd at the Coliseum tonight. Announced attendance: 10,802.
- Someone needs to tell play-by-play man Dave Lamont that it's pronounced "STAY-TEN" not "STAT-EN." He also referred to Daxter MILES as Daxter MILLS. So annoying. Do your homework. I miss Rob King and Warren Baker.
- Tarik Phillip had his best game to date. In addition to his great defense, he went 8-8 from the foul line.
- Not sure why Jonathan Holton was out of the game for the Gray layup. You would think he would have been able to contest that one.
- Had WVU survived this one and not stubbed its toe against NKU or Marshall, there's a good chance they would have been ranked in the top 10 nationally. Sigh.
The Mountaineers only have two games in the next fifteen days. Their next is at Northern Kentucky next Sunday at 6:00 PM. NKU stunned West Virginia in 2011, defeating the Mountaineers 77-74 in a preseason exhibition. So why is West Virginia playing AT Northern Kentucky? "Because they helped us," Huggins told reporters. Norther Kentucky has hired two former Huggins guys, Darris Nichols and Kevin Chapell. It's also close to the home of Devin Williams, and this staff hits that area on the recruiting trail. The game will be streamed on ESPN3.