Williams leads West Virginia past Richmond 67-59
LAS VEGAS (AP) — West Virginia couldn’t seem to shake Richmond Thursday at the Las Vegas Invitational, and desperately needed a turning point to seize momentum.
Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins was certain after the game of the only intangible that mattered.
“The turning point was every time we threw it to Devin Williams,” Huggins said. “He was just great, scoring for us. And when we missed, he was rebounding. He was terrific.”
Williams tied his career high by scoring 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead West Virginia to a 67-59 victory over Richmond, as the Mountaineers won their fifth straight to open the season.
Jevon Carter added 13 points for the Mountaineers (5-0), who shot 21 of 48 (43.8 percent) from the field, but never trailed.
Williams had his way against the Spiders’ frontcourt, hitting 9 of 11 from the field, while sinking 5 of 8 from the free throw line.
“I don’t know what we would have done if we couldn’t have thrown inside to him,” Huggins said.
Ahead by two with 12:59 left in the game, the Mountaineers seized momentum by scoring six points, in 48 seconds, culminated by two slam dunks by Jonathan Holton.
After a rebound and put-back slam dunk by Williams, he was called for a technical foul when arguing with the ref for a foul.
ShawnDre’ Jones hit one of two free throws and Marshall Wood followed with a lay-in to close the gap to 52-50. Esa Ahmad hit both ends of a one-and-one from the free throw line to give the Mountaineers a 54-50 edge with 5:58 left.
The Spiders twice more got as close as two, the final time with 2:49 left, but couldn’t overcome poor shooting and West Virginia’s stringent defensive effort that forced Richmond to commit 14 turnovers. And when the Spiders were able to slip through West Virginia’s suffocating full-court press, their shots were not falling.
Terry Allen had 20 points and six rebounds while Jones added 15 for the Spiders (3-2), who shot just 18 of 46 (39 percent) from the field and 21 of 35 from the free throw line.
The Mountaineers bolted out to a 12-point lead behind Williams’ dominating effort, as he scored eight of their first 18 points. The Spiders wouldn’t got away, however, as they responded with a 9-0 run of their own to cut the gap to 18-15.
West Virginia kept Richmond at arm’s length for the rest of the first half, extending its lead to as much as eight on two occasions before heading into the locker room with a 35-31 lead.
“My challenge this year is to be the best leader I can, and just lead by example and show people I’ve put the work in to lead this team the best way I can,” Williams said.
West Virginia: Williams, in his third year with the Mountaineers is averaging 19.0 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. He has opened the season with five consecutive double-doubles. The Mountaineers have now won 121 of their last 149 games against unranked teams.
Richmond: The Spiders were off to their best offensive start under coach Chris Mooney, and third-best offensive start in program history, averaging 90.8 points per game. After scoring 31 points under their average, the Spiders dropped to 10-4 in early-season neutral court games under coach Mooney, spanning the last 10 seasons.
West Virginia plays the winner of California/San Diego State on Friday
Richmond plays the loser of California/San Diego State on Friday