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West Virginia holds off Akron in season opener

The Mountaineers won despite first and second half sluggishness

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Texas Tech vs. West Virginia Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

The West Virginia Mountaineers opened their 2019-20 campaign with a double-digit victory over the Akron Zips, winning 94-84 at the Coliseum.

The Mountaineers overcame a sluggish start to the first half to lead at halftime 47-33. Sophomore wing Emmitt Matthews Jr. added a spark knocking down three three pointers in a three minutes span to stabilize the Mountaineers early.

In the second half WVU repeated their first half sluggishness early, allowing Akron to go on a 17-9 run in the first five minutes. An 11-0 run brought the double-digit deficit back to single digits with 10 minutes remaining. A Brandon Knapper three and a Chase Harler transition layup ended that run.

Akron would threaten again with under two minutes remaining, cutting the Mountaineer lead to as low as six before a Logan Routt block with 30 seconds to go shut the door on the Zips comeback.

When asked after the game about the lack of playing time for freshman Oscar Tshiebwe and sophomore guard Jordan McCabe, Huggins gave an honest and frank answer.

“Oscar came here to rebound and he didn’t rebound. Jordan came here to pass the ball and he didn’t pass the ball.”

Jermaine Haley and Derek Culver each had 16 points and 7 rebounds to lead WVU. Matthews added 13 points and 7 rebounds.

True freshman Deuce McBride had an impressive regular season debut with 11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and one block.

West Virginia returns to action in the basketball version of the Backyard Brawl at Pitt on November 15.