MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No. 11 West Virginia recored from a slow first half to beat North Texas 62-50 in its home opener on Friday night, but not before coach Bob Huggins got his team fired up.
Trailing 29-21 at halftime, after North Texas shot 59% in the opening half, the Mountaineers responded with 18 straight points to start the second half and then held off a late run by the Mean Green to seal the win.
The game was added to schedule after West Virginia’s initial season home debut against Robert Morris was canceled due to COVID-19 issues. North Texas was asked and the agreed to play the game.
“We woke them up. Its been a long few weeks,” Huggins said. “It’s so hard. We’re playing, we’re not playing. We’re playing this team, now we’re not.”
Sean McNeil scored 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting to pace the Mountaineers (5-1), while Taz Sherman added 13 points off the bench.
Derek Culver scored all of his 10 points in the second half, including seven during the decisive run, to go with 10 rebounds for West Virginia, which won two straight since losing to No. 1 Gonzaga.
“I would say the second half after me getting yelled at by Hugs, yes, it woke me up a little bit,” Culver said.
Javion Hamlet scored 15 points and Thomas Bell added 12 for North Texas.
Zachary Simmons grabbed seven rebounds for the Mean Grean (1-3) who went 19-of-55 for 34.5% shooting from the floor and made 4 of 19 from 3-pointers.
West Virginia’s slow start saw them being outperformed 20-10 in the paint in the first 20 minutes.
However, the Mountaineers returned to outscored the Mean Green 16-6 on the inside in second half.
“We just kind of slowed them down,” Huggins said. “We weren’t really trying to steal the ball or make a lot of plays on the ball. We were just trying to slow them down.”
West Virginia will now take a short recovery before taking on No. 19 Richmond on Sunday.
North Texas will get a longer break before returning home to entertain Arkansas Pine Bluff on Tuesday.