The stage was set. The first meeting between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Murray State Racers. The Racers biggest question was how they were going to battle a top-seeded team who was led by top guard Jevon Carter. The Mountaineers had to determine how they were to fight a team who currently held the nation’s second-longest win streak (13). In a game of questions, the Mountaineers had the only answer.
Murray State led off the first half with a 7-1 run with only 11:48 left, having West Virginia go more than 3:30 without scoring a point. After a timeout, the Mountaineers went on their own run (of 8-0) and kept the game close. While the Mountaineers average 79.6 points a game, and the Racers average 78.9, the game failed to look like a game played by such teams in the first half. At halftime, West Virginia led 38-29, with Jevon Carter and Esa Ahmad topping the score charts for the Mountaineers with 8 a piece.
While Murray State put up a tough game, the number of turnovers and lack of experience they had crushed them. At the end of the game, the Racers had 16 turnovers, compared to WVU’s 7. Additionally, the Mountaineers had a clear experience advantage, as Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. were the 6th and 7th Mountaineers to play in 4 NCAA Tournaments. While experience played a crucial role in how the game played out, the Racers had a shot with Jonathan Stark leading the way. Stark failed to have an answer to the Mountaineers second-half run, however, and ended the game with 9 points, compared to teammate Terrell Miller Jr. who showed up and showed out with 27 points. With more from Stark, the Racers might have ended the game with a closer score, rather than the final of 85-68.
The Mountaineers were tested but survived and will advance to play Marshall in the second round on Sunday (Time TBA).