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WVU smashes Maryland with defense, wins 69-59

Charleston Gazette photo by The Associated Press West Virginia's Juwan Staten (3) defends against Maryland's Melo Trimble during Sunday's NCAA tournament game in Columbus, Ohio.
Charleston Gazette photo by The Associated Press
West Virginia’s Juwan Staten (3) defends against Maryland’s Melo Trimble during Sunday’s NCAA tournament game in Columbus, Ohio.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — If Bob Huggins were a collector of artifacts, here’s all he would need to hang up on his wall to commemorate the way his 2014-15 team played the game — the boxscore from West Virginia’s third-round NCAA tournament game against Maryland.

Why? Because it showed the Mountaineers with the kind of advantages that not only does Huggins like to see, but the ones he designed this team to accrue; the ones it must achieve in order to win.

For the record: 15 steals, 14 offensive rebounds, 16 more field goal attempts, 11 more second-chance points and 11 more bench points. So what if the other team shoots 47.7 percent, as Maryland did, and the Mountaineers shoot in the 40s — exactly 40 — only because Jonathan Holton got an uncontested layup at the buzzer.

It’s not about the things West Virginia can’t do, like shoot, but what the Mountaineers can do, like play defense and rebound.

It was enough for fifth-seeded WVU to wear down fourth-seeded Maryland Sunday night. The result was a 69-59 win at Nationwide Arena in which the Mountaineers dominated the final 10 minutes.

“This is just what we do,’’ freshman guard Jevon Carter said. “Eventually the other team will crack.’’

The win propels No. 20 West Virginia (25-9) into the Midwest Regional semifinals Thursday night in Cleveland. There the Mountaineers will face No. 1 Kentucky (36-0), which has won more games to start a season than any team in college basketball history and is attempting to become the first unbeaten champion in almost four decades.

An immense challenge? Sure. But then again …

 

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