Mountaineers come-from-behind to beat Cincinnati

MORGANTOWN, WV—Finally after 21 games played in the season West Virginia head coach Josh Eilert had his whole team finally together Wednesday night and came-from-behind to beat visiting Cincinnati 69-65 before 10,349 hungry fans at the Coliseum.

“It’s good to be home ,for sure ,” Eilert said in a nod to the large crowd that showed up on a weekday night. “”You look at the box score, and the fact that they had a 10 point lead with six minutes to go and we showed enough resolve to make plays down the stretch….that’s a credit to our guys and the mindset they had tonight.”

Jesse Edwards didn’t make a lot of free throws in the game, but he made the one that counted. His free throw with 21 seconds left gave WVU a four point lead and enough cushion to defeat the Bearcats. The Mountaineers overcame a double-digit, second half deficit because it had Edwards back in the lineup. Edwards scored a season high 25 points, 19 of those points coming in the second half. He also grabbed ten rebounds helping WVU to snap a two game losing streak and continue to like “home cooking” playing at the Coliseum. In its last three games at the Coliseum West Virginia has defeated No, 25 Texas, No. 3 Kansas and Cincinnati. The Bearcats were 33rd in this week’s NCAA NET rankings.

It looked like Cincinnati had the game won with 6:29 left and the Bearcats took a 10 point lead 60-50. But the resurgent Mountaineers took just 3:17 to erase it. After a Quinn Slazinski free throw, Edwards followed up RaeQuan Battle’s miss with a dunk and then tacked on a layup off a nice pick-and-roll feed from Slazinski beyond the top of the key where he got hi three to go down. It reduced the Bearcat lead to 60-58.Edwards completed the 12-0 run with a layup that gave WVU a 62-60 lead with only 1:47 left in the game.

Viktor Lakhin’s three untied it, but Battle answered with a long three with 1:04 left. Two missed threes by the Bearcats allowed WVU to extend its lead to five on free throws by Kriisa, Edwards and Slazinski, the big one coming from Edwards.

Edwards was 9 for 9 from the floor in the second half and finished the game making 11 of 17. Edwards was playing tonight with heavy bandages on his shooting hand from fracturing his wrist six weeks ago.

“When teams have to focus so much on Jesse’s rim runs it’s going to open everything up on the floor,” Eilert said. “Making 11 of 17 field goal attempts, yeah, I’d say Jesse is back”, Eilert added.

WVU (8-13, 3-5 Big 12) shot 47 percent from the floor. Slazinski scored 15, while Kriisa and Battle had ten points  each. The loss drops Cincinnati to 14-7 and 3-5 in the Conference. The Mountaineers will face a tough No. 22 BYU Saturday night at the Coliseum. “I’m looking forward to bringing BYU into town and we’ve got everyone back,” Eilert said. “Let’s treat this as an 11 game season, and let’s make the most of it. We’ve got no quit in us.” Eilert said.