Unmanned Mountaineer 2nd Half Rally Falls Short 56-54

FORT MYERS, FL—Unmanned again with no help from the NCAA elite, the West Virginia Mountaineers fell short 56-54 against 24th ranked Virginia Wednesday night in the consolation game of the Fort Myers Tip-Off at Suncoast Credit Union Arena Wednesday night.

WVU rallied from a 10 point deficit in the second half only to lose by two. The Mountaineers, using a 16-4 run, took the lead 42-40 on Kobe Johnson’s three. The Cavaliers scored the next five , but Quinn Slazinski answered with a three to tie the game at 45.

WVU retook the lead with 1:55 left on Seth Wilson’s three, and later tied it at 54 on three free throws from Slazinski when he was fouled behind the arc by Ryan Dunn. The Mountaineers were unable to secure the rebound on Dunn’s missed three pointer. Leon Bond Lii got the offensive rebound and Slazinski fouled Reece Beekman in the act of shooting with two seconds remaining. Beekman made the first of two and his second was secured by Dunn who was fouled by Ofri Naveh. Dunn made one of two with no time left for the Mountaineers to attempt one last shot.

“If we get a rebound here or there we have a heck of a chance to win that game,” WVU coach Josh Eilert said. WVU (2-3) out rebounded Virginia 41-28 for the game, however the Mountaineers struggled on the boards late in the game when Jesse Edwards picked up his fourth foul. Edwards had a game high 17 points and nine rebounds. He missed a couple of important free throws in the second half.

Slazinski reached double figures with 17. WVU shot 19 of 51 from the floor (37.3 percent, 7 of 21 of 3 pointers (33.3 percent) and 9 of 13 (62.5 percent) from the free throw line.

Virginia (5-1) got 18 points off WVU’s 16 turnovers. “I’m not really into moral victories even though we were shorthanded and have a lot of challenges,” Eilert said.”That’s not my message to them. We’re going to compete each and every night. We have a very small margin for error so we’ve got to be careful not to lose our heads down the stretch like we did tonight.”

“I’m proud of the way our kids competed, but it sucks getting back on that airplane coming home 0-2, ” Eilert said. ” We’ve got a lot of things to build on, press forward and accept the challenges we have.”

WVU returns to action at the Coliseum this Sunday to face Bellarmine in a 5 p.m. contest that will be televised on ESPN+.