BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Jevon Carter believes West Virginia is ready for Big 12 Conference play. Individually, he certainly showed he’s ready.
Carter scored 18 points to lead the No. 19 Mountaineers to an 88-63 victory over Virginia Tech on Wednesday.
He made his first eight shots from the floor for the Mountaineers (11-1), who never trailed. They head into league action having won four straight since a 70-54 loss to Virginia on Dec. 8.
“We know when we jump on somebody, we can’t let them back,” said Carter, who finished 8 of 10 from the field. “This game, we went on a lot of runs and they kept cutting them short, but we knew we had to jump on them and stay on them.”
Jaysean Paige added 17 points for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia used a 20-3 run spanning the two halves to take control. The Mountaineers scored the final five points of the first half and 15 of the first 18 points in the second half. Carter’s basket with 16:24 remaining gave the Mountaineers a 61-39 lead, and they eventually led by as many as 26. Carter scored 10 of the 20 in that run.
“We stole the ball and scored,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of the run. “We got our hands on balls and made some good plays. We made some good finishes around the rim.”
The Hokies (8-5) were led by Shane Henry, who scored a career-high 12 points. Zach LeDay added 11 points, and Seth Allen finished with 10. They committed 22 turnovers.
West Virginia, which shot 51 percent, got 12 points each from Tarik Phillip and Jonathan Holton.
Virginia Tech cut the lead to 72-55 on two free throws by Allen with 8:22 remaining. Phillip had a three-point play with 6:55 remaining and two free throws by Paige with 6:18 left pushed the lead to 77-55.
Though both teams shot better than 50 percent in the first half, they combined for 33 fouls, 38 free throws and 25 turnovers in the first 30 minutes.
The Hokies cut a 13-point deficit to 41-36 with a minute remaining in the first half on a free throw by Shane Henry. But Carter’s three-point play with 37.8 seconds left and a basket by Phillip gave the Mountaineers a 46-36 lead at halftime.
“This whole season, we’ve come out flat in the second half, teams always jump on us,” said Carter, who made a 3-pointer to start the scoring after the break. “We knew we got the ball coming out for the second half, and we knew that if we scored on the first play, that was going to get us going.”
West Virginia has two straight Big 12 road games ahead.
I’ve said its way harder than the Big East,” Huggins said of the conference. “The Big East had nine or 10 teams that were really, really good. Then they had six that weren’t very good.
“Next week, we’re going to be 1 and 2 in the poll (Kansas and Oklahoma) and probably six or seven in the Top 25. How can you say it’s not the best league in the country?”
Virginia Tech: Henry scored in double figures for just the second time in his career. … The Hokies played their first game since Chris Clarke suffered a bone fracture in his right foot. Clarke had surgery and is out indefinitely. …The game was the Hokies’ first sellout of the season. … Justin Bibbs entered the game leading the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage at 61.5 percent (32 of 52), but made just 1 of 3 against West Virginia.
West Virginia: Won for the third time in the past four meetings with the Hokies since the schools resumed the series in 2012 after an eight-year hiatus. … Holton recorded his fourth double-double of the season. …The Mountaineers have won 14 of their past 18 games against teams from the ACC.
Virginia Tech: Hosts NC State on Saturday.
West Virginia: Travels to Kansas State on Saturday.