RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- After consecutive wins over ranked
opponents, West Virginia hardly seems like just a football school
Johannes Herber and Mike Gansey each scored 15 points Sunday to
lift West Virginia past North Carolina State 82-69, giving
the Mountaineers their best start in more than 40 years.
Patrick Beilein and Tyrone Sally each scored 11 points in a
balanced effort by the Mountaineers, who improved to 10-0 for the
first time since the 1959-60 season when Jerry West played for West
Virginia. Six players scored in double figures and West Virginia
shot 59 percent.
Coach John Beilein said after the game that he would rather his
team remain under the national radar, but he might not have a
choice anymore. The Mountaineers defeated George Washington (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today; No. 20 AP) last week, then followed by beating the Wolfpack (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today; No. 17 AP) -- a team that had won 48 of
52 nonconference games in the RBC Center.
That could add up to West Virginia's first appearance in The
Associated Press' Top 25 since March 1998, which was the last year
the Mountaineers reached the NCAA tournament.
"A ranking would be nice," Gansey said. "But at the same
time, it doesn't really matter I guess."
Freshman Andrew Brackman scored 19 points in his first start for
the Wolfpack (10-3), who played without leading scorer Julius
Hodge. Hodge, last year's Atlantic Coast Conference player of the
year, was sidelined with a sprained right ankle suffered in last
week's lopsided loss to St. John's.
Wolfpack point guard Tony Bethel, who has battled flulike
symptoms for a week, played 21 minutes and went scoreless for the
third straight game.
But considering the way the Mountaineers played, it might not
West Virginia shot the ball confidently from the start, played
effective and physical defense and got out in transition to get
several easy baskets. The Mountaineers led 43-36 at halftime, then
hit 10 of their first 15 shots after the break to build a 14-point
lead with about 7½ minutes left.
West Virginia went 10-for-18 from 3-point range, and got several
easy layups off backdoor cuts and crisp passing.
The Mountaineers got contributions from just about everywhere.
Gansey, a 6-foot-4 guard, led the team with 10 rebounds and four
steals. Four players had at least three assists, five hit
3-pointers and D'or Fisher blocked six shots.
"That is the story with this team," Beilein said. "We hit
shots, play hard and know that we can win."
After Sally's jumper from the right side put the Mountaineers up
69-55, the Wolfpack cut into the lead with a fadeaway jumper from
Ilian Evtimov and four free throws from Brackman. That recharged a
lethargic home crowd, but the surge wouldn't last.
As they did all day, the Mountaineers patiently ran their motion
offense to get good looks. It paid off with a jumper from Herber,
then Gansey drove right by Cameron Bennerman for an easy layup to
push the lead back to 73-61 with about 5 minutes left.
"Everybody on this team can hit the open jumper, even a
contested jumper," said Kevin Pittsnogle, who scored 10 points and
hit two 3s. "If they've even got a second to get it off, it's
going in almost every time. That shows how much confidence we have
in our team."
The Mountaineers used a 16-1 run late in the first half to go
ahead to stay, getting three layups in transition and holding the
Wolfpack without a field goal for nearly 9 minutes. Gansey had
three layups and assisted on a jumper from Sally, while Herber
closed the run with a 3-pointer for a 34-25 lead with 4:24 left
In the first half, 10 of West Virginia's 17 field goals were
layups and the Mountaineers had 12 assists.
The Wolfpack shot just 39 percent, and missed Hodge when it came
to finding a go-to guy to hit a needed shot as the game slipped
"Right now our team just seems real dull, real boring, and
that's not our style," said Bennerman, who had five points on
2-for-9 shooting. "We don't have dull and boring players on this
team. Defensively our intensity just wasn't there."
It was hardly the way N.C. State wanted to follow a 63-45 loss
to St. John's in the finals of the Holiday Festival in New York.
The Wolfpack shot a school-record low 20 percent in that game,
including 2-for-24 from 3-point range.
Now the Wolfpack will have to find a way to recover from two
disappointing losses before opening ACC play at Miami next weekend.
And it's unclear whether Hodge will be ready to play by then.
"We have to get healthy and then get better," N.C. State coach
Herb Sendek said. "Our guys are fully aware that we have to rise
to the challenge."