It’s not often you play a team that has never made the NCAA tournament, but West Virginia did just that on Thursday night, squaring off against the Elon Phoenix. The Phoenix would have difficulty rising at the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic in Charleston, South Carolina.
West Virginia came into the game second in the nation in turnovers forced, forcing 28.5 per contest with Kedrian Johnson leading the nation in steals with 5.5 per contest.
The Mountaineers opened the game with a Johnson three-pointer off of a Taz Sherman assist and would never trail. Elon unexpectedly hung around for much of the first half, until the West Virginia imposed their offensive will and extended their largest first half lead to 35-20 on a Dimon Carrigan free throw with 6:25 to go in the first stanza.
WVU seemed to let off the gas to finish out the first half, despite Elon’s best player, Hunter Mcintosh being sidelined for all but two minutes in the first half. The Phoenix would battle back and cut the lead to 42-37 with 1:31 remaining. Isaiah Cottrell would hit a pair of free throws to give the Mountaineers a lackluster 44-37 lead at the half.
The second half saw West Virginia come out of the locker room on a 10-4 run, extending the lead back to 15, 56-41 with 15:22 remaining in the game.
McIntosh would spark Elon, cutting the Mountaineer lead to nine on a triple with 12:42 to go in the game. Malik Curry would hit a pair of free throws to close out the game, closing the game with a win, 87-68.
Taz Sherman had a new career high, leading the Mountaineers with 27 points. Surprisingly, Sherman was only 1-5 from behind the arc for the game, scoring most of his buckets off the bounce.
McNeil added 16 points on 7-13 shooting.
Kedrian Johnson, Gabe Osabuohien and true freshman Kobe Johnson all tallied two steals each.
The win moved Bob Huggins into a tie for fourth all-time winningest coach, alongside Roy Williams. Huggins will need 17 more wins this season to tie the newly retired Jim Calhoun for third place.
The Mountaineers return to action Friday night against Marquette. That game is scheduled for a 7:00PM ET tip-off, and will be broadcast on ESPN2.