MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia men’s basketball opened its home stand with an 85-64 win over Navy at the WVU Coliseum on Wednesday.
The Midshipmen gave West Virginia a good test, battling with the Mountaineers through the second half. The WVU defense held tough, though, keeping Navy to its lowest field goal percentage of the season thus far.
“[Navy] really, really [plays] hard,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “I thought it was good for our guys to play against somebody that plays that hard. They really do compete.”
West Virginia clicked with an early hot hand from behind the arc. Four of WVU’s first five baskets were three-pointers, giving the Mountaineers an early lead.
WVU needed just seven minutes to get ahead by double digits, but the Midshipmen never relented. Austin Benigni gave Navy a spark off the bench, attacking the rim and adding double-digit points before halftime. Benigni’s energy helped his team whittle an 18-point deficit down to 10 points at the halftime break.
Two Mountaineers, Erik Stevenson and Tre Mitchell, also reached double figures in the first half.
Navy carried that momentum into the second half. The Midshipmen quickly cut the deficit to two possessions, almost solely at the hand of Benigni, who gave Navy a seven-point run by himself.
WVU extinguished that swing by hitting three straight three-pointers. That quickly turned into a 14-2 run that helped WVU effectively seal the game with six minutes to go.
The Mountaineers cooled off from deep in the second half. They made more than half (54.5 percent) of their three-pointers before the break, but that number dipped to 38.5 percent after it.
WVU also reclaimed its spot in the rebounding column, posting a plus-14 margin on the glass.
Benigni led the game with 20 points. He was one of two Midshipmen in double figures, along with Sean Yoder, who added 10.
Mitchell paced WVU with 19 points with an 8-of-12 mark from the field. He added six rebounds, a big improvement after going without grabbing a board against Xavier.
Stevenson added 13 points. Joe Toussaint (12 points) and Kedrian Johnson (11) each added double-digit points as well.
In recognition of both their opponent and the 81st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor,
“It was a great day to have Navy in here,” Huggins said. “On a day like this when so many West Virginians lost their lives in Pearl Harbor, I think it’s great to get Navy in here so that we can give a lot of gratitude to the people who really gave their lives for us. I wish we could have brought them all in. That would have been terrific.”
The Mountaineers return to the court on Saturday when they host UAB at the WVU Coliseum. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. ET.