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Mountaineers top Northeastern, 73-51

Photo courtesy of Dale Sparks WVU’s Derek Culver, left, and Oscar Tshiebwe battle Northeastern’s Greg Eboigbodin for a loose rebound Tuesday afternoon at the Coliseum.

MORGANTOWN — The No. 9 West Virginia men’s basketball team was not supposed to host the Northeastern Huskies on Tuesday afternoon, but the Mountaineers are probably glad they did.

A late addition to the schedule, the game filled the gap left after Buffalo withdrew due to COVID-19 issues. The Mountaineers had about a week to prepare, and the replacement game ultimately paid off in their favor.

Propelled by Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe, who combined to score 30 points, West Virginia emerged victorious, 73-51, earning the team’s eighth win of the season in the process.

With a team-leading 15 rebounds, Tshiebwe also earned his second double-double of the season.

“I’d be gravely disappointed if I didn’t see that out of them (moving forward),” head coach Bob Huggins said.

“They’re two talented guys. Derek’s come a long way offensively. Oscar has struggled a little bit early, but I think he’s starting to come out of it from an offensive standpoint.”

Culver opened the game by scoring 10 points within the first five minutes, a start that would often create distance between two teams. Yet, the Huskies were able to keep the score close early with their own offensive success.

Northeastern (1-5) was within an arm’s reach of the Mountaineers for most of the first half, but a 9-0 run placed West Virginia in a prime position before halftime.

West Virginia (8-2) entered the break holding a 34-26 lead. It was one of the last times the Mountaineers’ lead was below 10.

A little after four minutes into the second half, a layup from Emmitt Matthews Jr. pushed the WVU lead to 11. From that point on, the Mountaineers’ lead never dipped below 10, and reached 24 at its highest point.

Culver scored eight of his total points after halftime, finishing with a team-leading 18. Matthews finished second with 13, and Tshiebwe was a close third with 12.

Despite the success, the Mountaineers had one glowing error on that end of the floor: 3-point shooting.

Only two players — Matthews and Kedrian Johnson — were able to knock down 3-pointers, resulting in West Virginia going 2-of-21 from long range. It was the team’s worst 3-point shooting performance of the season.

“For us, obviously we didn’t shoot the ball the way we wanted to tonight,” Matthews said.

“But, the plus on that is you saw us on the offensive glass. You saw us playing better defense, getting steals – doing stuff that we need to do when we’re not able to make jumpers. Obviously, it’s one game. We’re going to come in (on) tomorrow’s off day (and) everybody’s going to get shots. Hopefully — not hopefully –we’ll make shots next game and that’s that.”

The Mountaineers will look to build off of the win in hopes of establishing a win streak after their last run was snapped at the hands of Kansas on Dec. 22. West Virginia will return to the court on Saturday when they take on the Oklahoma Sooners on the road.

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