Jevon Carter leads West Virginia past Murray State 85-68
SAN DIEGO (AP) — This long into their time together at West Virginia, Bob Huggins is only surprised when Jevon Carter has a bad game.
What Carter did on Friday in the first-round of the East Region against Murray State is simply what Huggins expects.
“I would be shocked if he didn’t play that way,” Huggins said. “He plays that way all the time. He plays that way in open gym. But he’s always done that.”
Carter scored 21 points, had eight assists and six steals, and played suffocating defense on Murray State star Jonathan Stark, and the fifth-seeded Mountaineers overwhelmed the 12th-seeded Racers 85-68.
Teddy Allen added 16 points and the Mountaineers (25-10) pulled away in the second half to advance to the round of 32 for the third time in the past four seasons.
West Virginia had four players finish in double figures. Next up: A Mountain State showdown with 13th-seeded Marshall far away from home.
“They’re going to be ready, ready to see a battle,” Carter said. “Two very good teams going up against each other, in-state rivalry. We’ll see what happens.”
Terrell Miller led Murray State (26-6) with 27 points, but he was the only Racers player to shoot well. Miller made 8 of 11 shots, but his team hit just 41 percent. Murray State had won 13 straight games entering the NCAAs, the second-longest active win streak in the country.
“I thought we would be able to attack the press, but their half-court defense is just so good,” Murray State coach Matt McMahon said. “You and sit around and try and run different offense, it’s not happening.”
Carter had 13 points in the second half and was the trigger of a second-half surge by the Mountaineers. But more important than what Carter did offensively was the job he and his teammates did on the defensive end shutting down Stark.
“It wasn’t just me. We’ve got a lot of different guys that can guard,” Carter said. “Our main focus was to stop him and make other guys beat us and we just did an unbelievable job of team defense.”
Stark carried the offensive load all season for the Racers, scoring in double figures in 30 of 31 games entering the NCAAs, including three games of 30 or more points late in the season.
But Stark never found his shot from the outside and anytime he beat his defender there were Mountaineers waiting. Stark, who was averaging 21.8 points per game, was 1 of 12 shooting and finished with nine points.
“They’re a solid defensive team, but I got a lot of wide-open looks. I just didn’t knock the shots down, ” Stark said. “Credit to them. They did a great job of contesting some of my shots.”
Murray State lingered long enough to at least make the Mountaineers work. Down by 14 early in the second half the Racers rallied, pulling within 49-44 on Shaq Buchanan’s basket. It capped a surge the Racers needed to avoid getting blown out. But the surge by Murray State was fleeting.
The Mountaineers scored nine of the next 10 points. Carter was the catalyst with a three-point play, and a steal where he found Logan Routt for a breakaway dunk and a 58-45 lead.
Murray State never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.
Murray State: The Racers will lament a first half where they were trailing from nearly the outset. The Racers had 11 turnovers in the first half as they struggled handling West Virginia’s pressure defense. Those wasted possessions allowed the Mountaineers to build a comfortable lead.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers were smart in not settling for jump shots against the undersized Racers. West Virginia outscored Murray State 48-24 in the paint and the Mountaineers shot 58 percent in the second half.
Murray State: The Racers should again be in the mix in the Ohio Valley Conference. Murray State will return its entire roster with the exception of Stark and Miller. It’s a lot of points to replace, but 11 players back is a good place to start.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers will face Marshall for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
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