West Virginia missed only 10 shots in each half en route to shooting better than 60 percent from the field, which allowed the Mountaineers to respond from their first loss this season with an 89-71 victory against Portland State on Friday at Moda Center.
Less than 24 hours after falling to No. 24 Purdue 80-68 in their opening game of the Phil Knight Legacy, the Mountaineers had six double-figure scorers and executed at a high level offensively throughout much of the contest save for 19 turnovers.
“We’re going to work on it, but obviously if they continue to turn it over, we’re going to have to play somebody else there,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said after moving into sole possession of third place on the all-time wins list for Division I coaches with 921.
West Virginia (5-1) made 31-of-51 field goals, 7 of 16 from long range and 20-of-28 free throws in a game it led for the final 37:32.
One night after forward Tre Mitchell had his worst outing at West Virginia, Mitchell displayed much more of what he had through the season’s first four games and scored a team-high 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Perhaps more importantly, he played a team-high 34 minutes after being plagued by foul trouble in the loss to the Boilermakers.
WVU took its first double-digit advantage at 20-10 on an Erik Stevenson 3-pointer at the 13:22 mark.
Stevenson hit another triple 7:14 before halftime that stretched the lead to 33-19, before the Vikings (2-4) followed with one of their best stretches and cut the deficit in half. It featured two Cameron Parker free throws and Hunter Woods’ putback, before Woods scored from long range to make it 33-26.
“Sporadic at best,” Huggins described the defensive effort as. “We guarded well at times and very poorly at times. They do a really good job of spreading you and driving you and they try to get big outs on the floor and attack them.”
Kedrian Johnson scored West Virginia’s next six points on free throws and the first four started an 8-0 surge that left the Mountaineers leading 43-27 on Mohamed Wague’s layup.
WVU guard Seth Wilson hit two 3s over the final 2:38 of the half, including one that marked the final points before the break, allowing the Mountaineers to lead 53-36.
Despite falling behind by 21 early in the second half and facing a 60-40 deficit moments later, Portland State continued to battle and used a 10-0 run to close to within 10. Mikal Starks and Parker provided four points apiece during the surge, which also included two Isaiah Johnson free throws.
But WVU got consecutive buckets from guard Joe Toussaint in response and led by at least 12 the rest of the way.
Wilson hit another triple with 9:45 left to make it 69-54, and the sophomore guard added his fourth and final trey for an 80-62 lead with 4:20 remaining.
“He’s been huge. That’s what he does,” Huggins said. “He can make shots.”
The Mountaineers finished 31 of 51 from the field and made 7-of-16 3s and 20-of-28 free throws in a foul-filled affair that featured 54 between the two teams.
West Virginia assisted 20 of its 31 baskets.
Emmitt Matthews Jr. scored 14 points, Wilson and Johnson contributed 12 apiece and Toussaiant and Stevenson added 11 each.
“We’re getting better. We were pretty sick yesterday and particularly Emmitt Matthews,” Huggins said. “He really sucked it up to play yesterday.”
Portland State held a 30-27 rebounding advantage and made 30-of-38 free throws but was hampered by 24 turnovers, including 16 in the first half.
“They took long shots,” Huggins said. “I don’t think rebounding was an issue today, but it’s been an issue.”
Parker led all players with 19 points and made all 13 of his free throws.
Woods added 12 and matched Johnson with a game-high five boards.
The Mountaineers will take on Florida (4-2) Sunday in their final game of the event at 8:30 p.m. ESPNU will televise the matchup.
The Gators defeated Oregon State on Friday after losing to Xavier one day earlier.