Staten scores 21 to lead West Virginia to upset of No. 17 Connecticut
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — If West Virginia can be disruptive on the defensive end of the court this season, Bob Huggins thinks it will mean good things for his team in the long run.
The Mountaineers put that theory to the test against the defending national champions, and it worked well for them.
Juwan Staten had 21 points, and West Virginia held off several second-half runs to beat No. 17 Connecticut, 78-68, in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament.
Jonathan Holton and Daxter Miles, Jr. added 10 points each.
The Mountaineers (5-0) never trailed and forced Connecticut into 19 turnovers in the win over their former Big East rivals.
“I’ve got my kind of guys again,” Huggins said. “I’ve got guys that are just going to keep swinging, you know? These two freshmen (Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, Jr.) are special freshmen. You just don’t find freshmen that have the courage to take the shots that those guys take.”
Staten was named the tournament MVP. Teammate Devin Williams also joined him on the all-tournament team.
Staten said WVU didn’t start working on its full-court pressure until a few days prior to the tournament. Huggins said it’s a little sporadic and in need of fine tuning, but Staten said he and his teammates like the pace it creates.
“Coaches have us pumped up from the start of the season just letting us know that we’re a special team and that we really have a chance to do something special,” Staten said.
Ryan Boatright led the Huskies (3-1) with 17 points. Daniel Hamilton added 15 points and 11 rebounds. But Hamilton also led the team with eight turnovers, which coach Kevin Ollie said will be a point of focus going forward.
“They did a real good job pressuring us,” Ollie said. “We had some bad turnovers, some live turnovers that we were trying not to have. All of our guys are going to learn from this.”
Boatright and Hamilton also made the all-tournament team, along with Dayton’s Jordan Siebert and George Mason’s Shevon Thompson.
The Mountaineers led by 15 in the first half and managed to counter several mini-runs by the Huskies in the second half.
Connecticut got it down to 50-44 on a basket by Daniel Hamilton. But a steal and layup by Gary Browne silenced the Huskies fans and set up a period that saw Connecticut score just one field go over about a five-minute span.
After the Huskies cut the lead to 64-54 with 6:15 left, Browne again came up big with a 3-pointer.
The Huskies make the Mountaineers pay for extending their defensive pressure full court, getting easy dunks on the other end. More often, though, it was Connecticut that seemed to come unglued on the offensive end after expending energy to attack West Virginia’s pressure.
West Virginia went to its pressure early, forcing 10 first-half turnovers and turning them in 14 points on the other end on the way to a 47-32 halftime lead.
The Mountaineers got easy looks at the basket in the period, scoring 20 points in the paint, while holding the Huskies to 2 for 11 from the 3-point range.