The West Virginia Mountaineers claimed a hard-fought 76-71 victory over No. 11 ranked Iowa State in Morgantown on Wednesday night. The win is the Mountaineers’ fourth in their last five, improving their record to 15-9 (4-7 Big 12).
Erik Stevenson scored the first four points for the Mountaineers. A Tre Mitchell three-pointer after the first media timeout put West Virginia ahead 10-4 early.
After some back-and-forth action, WVU took a 19-11 lead with 10:23 remaining in the half when a reversed call on an offensive foul earned James Okonkwo two free throws. Keddy Johnson increased the lead to nine with a three-pointer and Mitchell followed up with another to grow WVU’s lead to fifteen.
A tense final three minutes of the first half set the tone for what would become a ref show in the second half, as Joe Toussaint was called for a technical foul for talking to an Iowa State player following a made layup. The Cyclones took advantage, putting together a 10-2 run of their own to close the gap to six points, 36-30, at the half.
Iowa State cut it to a one-possession game to start the second half with an and-one, but Matthews countered with an and-one of his own.
Iowa State responded with two consecutive threes to take a one-point lead of their own. Johnson answered with another three-pointer, and a huge play from Stevenson resulted in two free throws to reclaim the lead. A flagrant foul on Iowa State gave Stevenson two more free throws, growing West Virginia’s lead back to six with 8:29 to play.
With 2:20 remaining and the Mountaineers clinging to a one point lead, Erik Stevenson fouled out of the game on a controversial offensive charge call. Keddy Johnson took a charge on the other end to regain possession, but a missed jumper by Matthews allowed the Cyclones to take a 71-70 lead with a driving layup on the other end of the court.
Joe Toussaint reclaimed the lead for the Mountaineers with a pair of made free throws, and extended it again with another pair from the charity stripe in the final ten seconds of the game. Emmitt Matthews sealed the victory with two more made free throws, giving the Mountaineers a 76-71 win.
Kedrian Johnson led WVU with 22 points, six assists. Emmitt Matthews finished with a season high 20 points and five rebounds. Tre Mitchell added nine points, while Erik Stevenson and Joe Toussaint each contributed eight points. James Okonkwo continues growing into his role as a force around the rim, recording three blocks and nine rebounds.
The Mountaineers will travel to Austin on Saturday to take on No. 5 Texas. The two teams played each other in Morgantown on January 21st, with the then No. 7 ranked Longhorns escaping with a 69-61 win. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 with tip off set for Noon ET.