Strong Second Half Leads to WVU Win Over Drexel

MORGANTOWN, WV—-Finally the West Virginia Mountaineer Men’s basketball team(4-5) didn’t run out of gas in the second half and hung on to break a two game losing streak beating Drexel 66-60. Hopefully WVU has turned the corner with this victory and is on its way back with key players returning.

“We haven’t been the greatest second half team, and we have our challenges with numbers and conditioning with all of those guys playing high minutes, but I told them to push the pace and get up in them and take some things away,” interim WVU coach, Josh Eilert said.

Center Jesse Edwards led the scoring with 16 points shooting 7 of 10, including an important breakaway dunk with 37 seconds left after the Dragons cut WVU’s lead to four.

“It was a good win for us,” Eilert said. The Dragons led by as many as nine points early in the game and never trailed in the first half taking a 33-31 lead into the locker room at the half. Drexel shot 51.9 percent in the first half but it was a different story in the second half. The Dragons only made 12 of 35 field goal attempts, missing five in a row during a critical stretch late in the second half.

The Mountaineer’s biggest lead was eight, 62-54 with 4:14 to go. However WVU was unable to expand their lead to double digits. Akok Akok, who returned from an injury Wednesday night after being sidelined seven games, contributed five key points early in the second half. Guard Seth Wilson got his first two 3 pointers and finished with eleven. Wilson and Akok came off the bench and outscored Drexel’s 19-14.

“Akok was able to give us more minutes and that’s going to increase as he gets in better shape,” Eilert said. “He was plus 15 in the 12 minutes he was out there and he made a couple of shots and it was a team effort in so many ways.” Eilert added. Forward Quinn Slazinski added 14 points. WVU made 28 of 58 for 48.3 percent and 7 of 17 from three point distance. The game’s big 3 came from freshman Ofri Naveh with 5:19 remaining to give the Mountaineers a 60-54 lead.

This was Drexel’s first appearance in Morgantown since way back in 1980. “I thought we played with a little more joy today,” coach Eilert said. “There is a lot of pressure behind everything, but you’ve just got to love the game and come out here and enjoy playing together. That’s kind of the difference,” he added.

Guard Kerr Kriisa will be able to return when the Mountaineers travel to Massachusetts Saturday December 16. Kriisa served a nine game suspension after admitting to accepting impermissible benefits while playing at Arizona. Kriisa’s appearance will make 11 players available, which is much needed for WVU.

WVU finished its homestand at 2-2.