No. 19 West Virginia stuffs Illinois
NEW YORK — Illinois coach John Groce stood behind the podium and offered a bit of analysis.
And an understatement.
“They’re really good,” Groce said a few minutes after No. 19 West Virginia’s 89-57 victory over Illinois on Thursday in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off at the Barclays Center.
Nathan Adrian had 13 points and eight rebounds for the Mountaineers (4-0), and Jevon Carter added 10 points, six rebounds, six steals and five assists.
“Those two guys are special kind of guys,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.
They will face Temple in the title game Friday. The Owls beat No. 25 Florida State 89-86.
Esa Ahmad and Elijah Macon each had nine points, and Teyvon Myers and Daxter Miles Jr. added eight each. Michael Finke led Illinois (4-2) with 13 points, and Mike Thorne Jr. had 12.
West Virginia finished the half on a 41-20 run for a 48-29 lead. The biggest advantage was 39 points with 4:42 left.
Befitting a program nicknamed “Press Virginia,” West Virginia forced 13 turnovers in the first half, leading to 19 points. Illinois only forced two turnovers in the first half. For the game, the Mountaineers scored 34 points off of 24 Illinois turnovers.
“Jim Harrick told me one time, ‘I’d rather be up than down. I’d rather have the ball than not and I’d sure rather win than lose,'” Huggins said.
Illinois: Undoubtedly, this was an embarrassing loss for the Illini. But the positive is that they are unlikely to play anyone in the Big Ten that resembles West Virginia.
West Virginia: Bob Huggins’ teams are renowned for their trap and their ability to turn opponents’ turnovers into fast break points. Nothing has changed in that regard. Long term, though, does he have the kind of ball distributor that is needed to be successful in the NCAA Tournament?
Illinois: Entering Thursday, the Illini were coming off an 84-80 overtime loss to Winthrop. So they weren’t going to move into the Top 25. The loss to West Virginia just solidified that fact.
West Virginia: Following a decisive win, the Mountaineers are staying in the Top 25.
“The thing, obviously, that was the difference in the game was the points off turnovers: 34-1. They’ve forced every one they’ve played into 20-plus turnovers. We were determined to try and not get to that 20 (turnover) number and (that) didn’t happen. A lot of credit certainly goes to them, their aggressiveness and the way they attack and pressure you for 40 minutes on misses, makes and dead balls.” — Groce on West Virginia’s press defense.
Illinois: Will face Florida State in the consolation game Friday.
West Virginia: Will face Temple in the championship game Friday.