It was a “Press Virginia” infomercial for West Virginia during today’s NIT Season Tip-Off at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The 19th-ranked Mountaineers smothered Illinois with their suffocating full-court pressure defense to run away with an 89-57 victory here this afternoon.
"It feels good to win any time," said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins of today's victory, WVU's first at Barclays Center following two losses here. "We played a really good team here the first time - ended up being a Final Four team - and Brad (Underwood) did a great job here last year (coaching Stephen F. Austin). It's good to win anywhere, man."
hit his season average with 13 points and Jevon Carter
contributed 10 in a well-balanced WVU attack that saw nine different players score at least 6 points.
All 11 players who got into the game for West Virginia in the first half scored as it built a 19-point halftime lead. After a Maverick Morgan follow-up basket gave Illinois a 9-7 lead, West Virginia scored the next eight points and the used an 18-2 run to build a 25-11 lead.
Daxter Miles Jr.
, making his first appearance of the season, knocked down back-to-back 3s and Brandon Watkins
came off the bench to score a couple of close ones to key the run.
Miles played 17 minutes coming off the bench and finished with 8 points and two assists.
"He practiced some but he's just lost so much weight," said Huggins. "We held him the last game and I hate to say we didn't need him, but we didn't need him. I just want to get him well. We need him to play so I'm just trying to do the right thing."
West Virginia’s lead swelled to 18 on two Lamont West
free throws, but a six-minute dry spell allowed the Illini to make it a single-digit game with 4:50 left in the half when Michael Finke got his 3 to go down.
Miles ended the drought with a driving layup, and then WVU turned up its defensive pressure to get another quick basket on a breakaway dunk by freshman Maciej Bender
Watkins hit a short jumper, Ahmad got another basket on a follow and West finished a strong first half by following Myers’ miss just ahead of the buzzer.
It took Illinois four minutes to score to begin the second half and by that time West Virginia’s lead was 31.
West Virginia’s biggest lead was 39 points following a Bender follow-up basket with 4:42.
The Mountaineers finished the game shooting 45.8 percent and if not for missed free throws, today’s margin could have been far worse. WVU was just 17 of 30 from the charity stripe.
Illinois committed 24 turnovers and handled the basketball today like it was on fire, the Mountaineers scoring 34 points off those turnovers.
"That's the key for us all the time," said Huggins. "When you extend the floor the way we extend the floor and take the chances we take you better come up with some or else it's going to be a long night for us instead of them."
Michael Finke led Illinois, now 4-2, with 13 points.
West Virginia (4-0) will face Temple tomorrow’s championship. The Owls overcame an 18-point deficit to knock off 25th-ranked Florida State 89-86 in the first game.
The game will be televised on ESPN2 and is scheduled to get underway at 3 p.m.