MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia got going once its defense did.
The 24th-ranked Mountaineers shook off a slow start to beat American University 98-064 on Wednesday night.
The Mountaineers (1-1) were tied with the Eagles 24-24 with 6 ½ left in the first half. West Virginia then closed the half on a 20-9 run.
“In the first half, we were giving up straight line drives and open shots,” Jevon Carter said. “In the second half, once we started getting stops, that’s when our offense started clicking.”
Carter and Daxter Miles scored 20 points each to lead West Virginia.
WVU shot 12 of 32 (37.5 percent) from the field in the first half and finished the game shooting 32 of 63 (51 percent).
“We had shots in the first half, we just didn’t make any and we forced things,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “We didn’t really take what we had. I thought we did a better job in the second half of taking what they gave us.”
Beetle Bolden added 16 points for West Virginia and freshman Teddy Allen scored 14 points in his home debut. Lamont West scored 12 points, 10 from the free throw line.
Wesley Harris led West Virginia with eight rebounds.
Sagaba Konate, who started at forward for the Mountaineers in their 88-65 loss to Texas A&M in Germany, was listed on the active roster but did not see playing time.
“It wasn’t a suspension or anything, I just didn’t want to play him,” Huggins said. “That’s my prerogative. Coach’s decision.”
Sa’eed Nelson led American (0-2) with 17 points and Larry Motuzis added 15. The Eagles shot 29 of 39 from the field.
“I thought that’s an outlier game,” American coach Mike Brennan said. “They’re a Top 25 team and they are what they are for a reason. I thought we hung in there for as long as this group can right now.”
With a blowout loss to Texas A&M in Germany and a sluggish start against American, the Mountaineers will need to improve their scoring output to be competitive in the Big 12 come late December.
Since the Mountaineers play only American and Morgan State before the new AP Top 25 comes out, it is very unlikely that West Virginia rises more than a spot or two, if they rise at all.
In their two losses, American has found a new leader alongside returning star Nelson. Motuzis has a team-best scoring average of 16 points per game along with three rebounds per game against two Big 12 opponents on the road.
“We know Larry can score for sure,” Brennan said. “But now we need to get him to do some other things and get other guys to sort of get comfortable. But Larry’s been working really, really hard and I’m happy with his defensive progress.”
STRONG MOUNTAINEER FRESHMEN
Two West Virginia freshmen, Wesley Harris and Teddy Allen both played significant time in their debuts. Allen finished with 14 points and four rebounds in his 14 minutes and Harris finished with eight points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes.
The Mountaineers continued to do what they do best, scoring 28 points off 22 Eagle turnovers.
American continues their season-opening road trip at Wagner on Saturday.
West Virginia finishes the week with a home game against Morgan State on Saturday.