MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia (7-2) had five players score in double figures with Tre Mitchell’s 19 points pacing the Mountaineers in an 85-64 win over the Navy (5-4) men’s basketball team, Wednesday night at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W,Va.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis. “I think West Virginia is a very good basketball team. They are going to have a great year. We came into this atmosphere and our kids battled and played with some passion and grit and toughness. We cut it to five in the second half. They (West Virginia) are good. They are long and athletic and they change your shots. They obviously are well coached in Bob Huggins. I am proud of our kids. I am disappointed in the outcome, but I am proud of the effort and energy they put into this thing.”
“Ed DeChellis does a fantastic job with those guys, and they play hard,” said Huggins, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this summer. “They really, really play hard. I thought it was good for our guys to play against somebody that plays that hard. They really do compete. It was a great day to have Navy in here. On a day like this when so many West Virginians lost their lives in Pearl Harbor, I think it’s great to get Navy in here so that we can give a lot of gratitude to the people who really gave their lives for us. I wish we could have brought them all in. That would have been terrific. (It is) kind of impossible, though.”
West Virginia, which began the day ranked 10th nationally in the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) metric, entered the game averaging 7.3 three-point field goals made a game on the season. The Mountaineers made four triples in the first five minutes to take a 14-5 lead. The margin would grow to 22-10 as West Virginia started the game 9-12 from the floor, then it became a 36-18 lead with seven minutes left in the half.
Navy chipped away at the deficit and closed to within 10 points at halftime, 48-38.
Both teams shot the ball very well in the opening 20 minutes as the Mountaineers made 59 percent of their attempts and the Mids connected on 56 percent of their shots. Each team made six triples and both committed just five turnovers. Navy held an 11-4 advantage in points after turnovers, and West Virginia held a 7-2 lead in second-chance points.
Navy wasted no time in cutting the margin to eight as Daniel Deaver (Sr., Falls Church, Va.) scored on a putback on the first possession of the second half. A basket and converted free throw by Austin Benigni (Fr., The Woodlands, Texas) after he was fouled drew the Mids to within 54-49 with 14:18 left, then a Sean Yoder (Sr., Dublin, Pa.) triple with 12:54 showing on the clock made it a six-point game at 58-52 with 12:54 left on the clock.
West Virginia soon made a three-point shot on three-straight possessions to pull ahead, 67-54, with just under 11 minutes remaining. The lead remained double figures for the rest of the night.
West Virginia connected on 55 percent of its shots for the game and made 11 three-point field goals, which left it one made triple shy of tying its season high. Navy made 46 percent of its field goal attempts and converted nine three-point attempts. Both teams ended the game with nine turnovers, with the Mids leading the Mountaineers, 13-6, in points after turnovers.
Rebounding and the free throw line were two key statistics. The Mountaineers held a 38-23 lead on the glass including an 11-5 edge in offensive caroms. That allowed them to lead the Mids, 11-4, in second-chance points scored. At the foul line, West Virginia was 10-16 and Navy was 3-8.
“We didn’t turn it over,” said DeChellis. “We didn’t give them many transition points. We just couldn’t grab the ball when it was bouncing around. Offensive rebounds, we didn’t get many. Defensively, they are big and strong and hard to keep off their offensive glass.
“Turnovers, we were okay. Points in the paint, we actually had more (32-24). We didn’t give them fastbreak points (6-3 in favor of Navy). We took care of the ball and tried to rebound. Just proud of our kids, proud of our effort.”
Benigni ended the game 8-10 from the field in scoring a game-high 20 points. Yoder joined him in double figures with 10 points. Deaver added eight points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Navy will close its stretch of four-straight road games when it plays Sunday afternoon at Towson.