Foul line success gets WVU past Missouri
BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The least likely place any West Virginia basketball team uses to complete a dynamic comeback and win a game is at the free throw line.
But that is where the once-beaten Mountaineers went to brush aside a long Missouri lead and finally defeat the Tigers, 83-79, last Sunday in the finals of an eight-team tournament played in Buena Vista, Florida.
The long-distance comeback extended West Virginia’s win streak to six and made a season-opening 88-65 loss in Germany to Texas A&M a now-fading memory.
Deep into the second half of the unlikely win over Missouri, the Mountaineers were trailing, 68-52, with only 7:58 remaining.
Three minutes later, after the teams had basically traded points, West Virginia still trailed, 73-60, with only 4:59 to play.
Daxter Miles, Jr. began making free throws like he never had done before. Jevon Carter followed Miles’ lead and helped stoke the comeback.
Carter’s three-pointer poked the Mountaineers’ head in front at 77-75 with just 38 seconds left.
Missouri turnovers – five in a two-minute span – gave West Virginia its chances to burn away all its earlier deficit.
Trailing for the first time since the first half, Missouri couldn’t make steals or cause WVU turnovers so it fouled the Mountaineer guards.
With 21 seconds left, Miles made two free throws. With eight seconds showing, Miles made two more free throws. And with just three seconds to go Carter converted two more foul shots.
Miles, who entered the night converting only 17 of 27 free throws on the season, finished the Missouri game making 14 of 15 foul shots, and Carter was 8 for 8 as the Mountaineers made 31 of 35 free throws.
Missouri turnovers numbered 20 by the end of its come-from-far-ahead loss. West Virginia had only eight turnovers.
The loss was Missouri’s second in seven games while West Virginia moved to 6-1 overall.
In the three-game tournament, the Mountaineers had narrowly escaped against the Marist Red Foxes before crushing Central Florida the next night.
West Virginia continues to play without forward Esa Ahmad, out until after the new year because of off-court problems.
Before Ahmad’s return, the Mountaineers have blue ribbon games at home against Virginia and on the road against Pittsburgh.
The conference schedule begins on Dec. 29 at Oklahoma State.
When will the Mountaineers again go 31 for 35 at the foul line? Probably never.
But the one time they did gave them an improbable win over Coach Cuonzo Martin and the Missouri Tigers.