HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- After a disappointing 74-73 loss to LSU on Thursday night, No. 16 West Virginia needed a boost in confidence.
They got it on Sunday night, but it took them a while.
The Mountaineers came out with a sloppy first half and poor free-throw shooting on Sunday night before recovering in the second half to beat Northern Kentucky 67-42.
West Virginia came into the Bank of Kentucky Center looking sluggish. Northern Kentucky (3-5) controlled the pace of the game early, shooting the ball three times as often as West Virginia (8-1) in the game's first five minutes.
But the Norse couldn't capitalize. The teams combined for nine turnovers in the game's first eight minutes, and Northern Kentucky turned the ball over five times in 33 seconds at one point.
Eleven minutes into the game the score was just 6-6 with the teams shooting a combined 5 of 28 from the field and 1 of 14 from 3-point range.
"In the first half, that was our opportunity to get an 8, 10, 12-point lead, but we missed so many point-blank opportunities," Northern Kentucky coach Dave Bezold said. "We knew in the second half they were going to go on a run. We had the opportunity to give ourselves a little cushion, but that didn't happen."
With 6:51 left in the half, the Mountaineers went on a 7-0 run to go up 16-9, but faded again near the end of the half. They went into the locker room with a narrow 20-17 lead -- their worst first-half offensive output of the season.
"Here's the truth. When you don't make a shot -- and honestly, we could kick as many in as we made -- they're going to stand in the lane, and that really takes away our effectiveness," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "Once we got them out of the lane, we could attack them a little bit off the bounce and we finally made a couple of shots. We still didn't make very many."
After halftime, the Mountaineers came out with a quick 9-0 run, capped off by an authoritative dunk by guard Daxter Miles Jr., to go ahead 28-17. The outcome of the game was never again in question as West Virginia extended its lead. Forward Jonathan Holton scored all 10 of his points after halftime, and Williams scored nine of his 12 points in the second half.
The Mountaineers have played five games in the last two weeks, and Huggins alluded to the demanding schedule as a reason for his team's poor shooting.
"I think we can shoot the ball-I don't know," Huggins said, frustrated. "(Shooting) is repetition. When you're not in the gym as much and you don't shoot the ball, you lose that touch, and it becomes really apparent when you bang them off the front of the rim like we did. We never got the ball up and so we didn't have the chance to rebound it."
West Virginia: Before Sunday's 67-point showing, the Mountaineers had averaged 84 points per game this season.
Northern Kentucky: Northern Kentucky has now played three of its eight games against teams in the AP Top 25. The Norse lost to No. 3 Wisconsin 62-31 on Nov. 14 and lost to No. 21 Nebraska 80-61 on Nov. 16.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins faced a familiar foe on Sunday -- his nephew is Northern Kentucky starting guard Anthony Monaco. Monaco finished with six points in 27 minutes.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Sunday's game was the first regular-season meeting between the two teams, but Northern Kentucky defeated West Virginia 77-74 in an exhibition matchup in 2011.
Northern Kentucky hosts UC Clermont next Sunday.
West Virginia hosts Marshall next Sunday.
- Bert Smith
- Jon Stigliano
- Doug Sirmons