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Tuesday June 19 2018
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No. 19 West Virginia downs Illinois

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While Americans gobbled up turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes on Thursday afternoon, No. 19 West Virginia defeated Illinois, 89-57, in the NIT Season Tip-Off Semifinal.

Back at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, for the first time since falling to Stephen F. Austin, 70-56, in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the Mountaineers improved to 4-0 in the 2016-17 season.

Nate Adrian lead West Virginia with 13 points. Jevon Carter added 10 points and six steals in the double-digit victory.

West Virginia entered Thursday’s game leading the nation in turnovers forced per game (27.0) and forced 24 Illinois turnovers. Mountaineer opponents have recorded at least 21 turnovers in all four games this season and a combined 105 turnovers overall.

The Mountaineers capitalized on the slow-moving Fighting Illini offense. With 50 seconds remaining in the first half, Illinois guard Michael Finke dribbled slowly up along the sideline to half court, pressured by West Virginia’s Esa Ahmad. Carter, guarding a man on the other end of the court, dashed to midcourt to double-team Finke. As Finke tried to switch hands in hopes of dribbling around Ahmad, Carter got an easy steal and fed Ahmad for a spectacular slam.

After a back-and-forth opening five minutes, the Mountaineers took control. The Fighting Illini did not score from 14:50 to 11:27 of the first half. During the 3:23 stretch, West Virginia went on a 10-0 run and finished the first half on a 31-18 run. After taking a 10-9 lead with 16:59 remaining in the first half, the Mountaineers never trailed for the remainder of the game.

West Virginia continued the pressure in the second halftime, holding Illinois scoreless for the first four minutes and going on a 14-0 run until that first bucket allowed.

The Fighting Illini failed to scored 30 points in either half. The Mountaineers led 48-29 at halftime then outscored Illinois 41-28 in the second half. West Virginia has only allowed 30 or more points in a half twice this season and in different games.

The Mountaineers shot 56.7 percent (17-30) from the free-throw line. The 17 free throws made tied a season-high.

Eleven of West Virginia’s 15 players made at least one basket. Nine players recorded at least six points.

In his first game of the season, Daxter Miles Jr. scored eight points. Miles missed West Virginia’s first three games of the season with illness, but came off the bench in his 2016-17 debut. 

The win was head coach Bob Huggins’ 795th in his 35th season coaching college basketball. Huggins is ninth on the all-time head coaching wins’ list.

West Virginia’s next game is Friday against Temple in the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship. Tipoff is set for 12:30 p.m.

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