MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia got a season-high 23 points from junior Daxter Miles Jr. on Senior Night to power the 10th-ranked Mountaineers to an 87-76 victory over No. 24 Iowa State here Friday night in the regular season finale for both teams.
In addition to scoring 23 points, Miles grabbed seven rebounds and made five of six from the free throw line in clearly his best performance of the season.
“I’ve been hammering on him pretty good, but he shot the ball well,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of Miles’ night.
A sell-out crowd of 14,528 helped recognize West Virginia’s five seniors – Nathan Adrian, James Long, Teyvon Myers, Tarik Phillip and Brandon Watkins – which made up tonight’s starting lineup.
Long, a walk-on from Charleston, set the tone tonight by hitting a 3 on West Virginia’s opening possession of the game.
There were seven ties and 10 lead changes in the first half, WVU leading by as many as six, 9-3, and Iowa State holding a four-point advantage, 39-35, with 1:39 remaining.
Miles Jr. reduced that to one on a 3 and two Elijah Macon free throws the next time down the floor gave West Virginia back the lead, 40-39. A Macon block led to another Miles 3, with 49 seconds left before Monte Morris ended the first half with Iowa State’s 12th triple.
“I wasn’t very happy at halftime,” Huggins said. “When our offense was pretty good we passed the ball and then we were able to penetrate. But standing out there dribbling the ball between your legs with 10 eyeballs looking at you is a recipe for disaster and I think we did way too much of that in the first half.”
The Mountaineers (24-7) used a 7-0 run at the beginning of the second half to build an eight-point lead, 50-42, and the 3-point shots the Cyclones were making in the first half were not falling in the second.
Iowa State (20-10) was just two of eight from behind the arc in the second half, and during a six-minute stretch late in the game when the Mountaineers built their lead to as many as 17, all of the Cyclones’ points came at the free throw line off of drives to the rim.
“In the second half I thought we moved the ball and then all of the things we couldn’t do in the first half we could do because we had movement,” Huggins said.
Iowa State, one of the hottest teams in the country bringing a six-game winning streak into tonight’s game, finished shooting just 38.3 percent overall, and 41.9 percent from 3.
“The whole theory is to wear them down,” Huggins explained. “When they started missing some shots short, I think we did wear them down. When you’ve got to work that hard to get the ball, when you’ve got to work that hard to get a shot off I think that bodes well for us because we play a whole lot more people.”
Mitrou-Long Naz led the Cyclones with 22, but 15 of those came in the first half.
Deonte Burton, who sat a good portion of the first half after picking up two quick fouls, scored 17 to match Morris’ 17.
Matt Thomas contributed 16.
Adrian, playing in front of the hometown crowd for the last time, scored 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out three assists.
West Virginia’s . celebrates a 3-point shot in the first half of tonight’s game against Iowa State. Miles Jr. matched his career-high with 23 points in leading the Mountaineers to an 87-76 victory. All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
Jevon Carter scored 13, Macon had 10 off the bench and Phillip was close to a triple-double with seven points, eight rebounds and 10 assists.
WVU was 21 of 26 from the free throw line and had a sizable 48-29 advantage on the glass.
Sophomore forward Esa Ahmad , who missed the last three games with lower back spasms, showed his rust tonight. He scored five points, grabbed three rebounds and handed out an assist, but made just one of six from the floor.
“We’ve got time now hopefully to get him going,” Huggins said.
The victory tonight means the Mountaineers will finish tied for second with Iowa State in the Big 12 regular season standings with a 12-6 record, but the Mountaineers swept the season series against the Cyclones. Baylor could also finish with a 12-6 record, but WVU owns the tiebreaker of the Bears and will be the No. 2 seed in next week’s Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship taking place at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
“Theoretically, in most leagues (the 2 seed) is an easier route to the championship, but in this league I don’t think it really matters,” Huggins said. “If everything plays out the way it’s supposed to, I think four-five is Iowa State and Oklahoma State again. That was a heck of a game a couple of days ago and it will be a heck of a game again.”
The Mountaineers will play the 7-10 winner, most likely either Texas Tech or Texas, on Thursday night in a quarterfinal round game at 6 p.m. CST.
A victory today assures West Virginia of its second straight single-digit loss season. The last time that happened was in 1982-83 when college basketball played a 26-game regular season schedule and the Mountaineers were competing in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
WVU is scheduled to fly out to Kansas City on Tuesday morning in time for a Tuesday afternoon workout at a local junior college.
( Credit to wvusports.com)