WVU hoops survives UAB behind big second half from Sherman

Gold and Blue Nation

Blazers lead for nearly the whole game -- but Mountaineers come up big when needed

West Virginia men’s basketball notched its first true road win of the season as it pushed past UAB 65-59 on Thursday at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham.

WVU coach Bob Huggins was triumphant over his former assistant Andy Kennedy, however both teams played a rather sloppy game as they combined to shoot 41.9 percent and lost 29 turnovers. UAB ended up making the most costly mistakes down the stretch, however, allowing West Virginia to swing in front in the closing minutes for the win.

UAB spent the majority of the game on top of the scoreboard, taking the lead from the outset and holding on to it for the first 16 minutes. In fact, the Blazers led for over 34 minutes of the game, including 85 percent of the first half.

West Virginia’s offense just wasn’t good enough to lead in the first half as not one single Mountaineer could take over the team’s scoring responsibilities. Even Taz Sherman, the team’s leading scorer and the Big 12’s defending Player of the Week, didn’t earn his first points until there was just over a minute remaining in the first half.

Sherman had a rough first half overall, in fact, earning just one bucket and committing five turnovers. He flipped the switch in the second, adding 15 more points and cutting his turnovers down to just two. He finished with 17 points and seven turnovers.

KJ Buffen was formidable for UAB, especially in the second half, when he added seven points to the Blazers’ total — but in a stroke of luck for the Mountaineers, he fouled out with just over five minutes left in the game.

That sparked West Virginia to start an 11-2 run, taking the lead in the process and not giving it up through the final buzzer.

UAB went ice cold at the end of the second half, going without a field goal for over seven minutes until Jordan Walker made a paint bucket to break the streak with seconds remaining on the clock. In that span, West Virginia outscored the Blazers 23-8.

Walker finished with a team-high 13 points to go along with four rebounds and seven turnovers. Trey Jemison finished with a double-double for UAB, adding 10 points and 12 rebounds, while Buffen finished with 11 before getting his fifth foul.

Sherman’s 17 points were amassed on 35.7 percent from the field, but he was successful from three-point range, making 2-of-5 attempts. Sean McNeil was the other double-digit scorer for WVU, adding 12 points and four rebounds. Gabe Osabuohien logged six points and a team-high nine boards before he fouled out.

Both teams struggled to make shots from anywhere on the floor, but the Mountaineers won the free throw battle for the second time this season as they made 63 percent from the line compared to UAB’s 53.8 percent. The three-point shot was just not falling for either team, though, as they combined to shoot 6-for-34 from downtown.

The Mountaineers, who entered this contest as a road underdog, improve to 10-1 on the season with one game to go before embarking on their Big 12 slate. UAB earns its third loss of the season as it falls to 9-3.

The unofficial Bob Huggins reunion tour ends back in Morgantown when his Mountaineers host Youngstown State, which is coached by former assistant Jerrod Calhoun. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. ET on Dec. 22.

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