Jermaine Haley and Derek Culver scored 16 points apiece to lead a balanced effort as West Virginia held off Akron 94-84 on Friday night to win its season opener in Morgantown, W.Va.
Emmitt Matthews Jr. chipped in 13 points, and Miles McBride added 11. Three other players scored at least eight.
Dayton transfer forward Xeyrius Williams led Akron (1-1) with 20 points, including three free throws with 45 seconds left to cut the lead to 90-84. After a West Virginia turnover, the Mountaineers’ Logan Routt blocked a layup attempt by Williams that could have cut the lead to four.
West Virginia went 4 of 4 from the free-throw line in the final 28 seconds.
Channel Banks and Loren Cristian Jackson each scored 16 for the Zips. Tyler Cheese added 15. Camron Reece pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
Akron trailed 47-33 at halftime but scored the first five points of the second half and eventually trimmed its deficit to six points with 15:45 to go.
West Virginia answered that with an 11-0 run, capped by two free throws by Taz Sherman after a technical foul on Cheese, who argued about a no-call. Sherman’s free throws made it 67-50.
The Mountaineers looked poised to run away, but the Zips responded with their own 11-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Williams to make it 67-61 with 10:25 to go.
West Virginia pushed the lead back to 13 on four occasions before finally turning away Akron in the final minute.
The Mountaineers are coming off a disappointing 15-21 season that ended with a home loss to Coastal Carolina in the second round of the College Basketball Invitational. Coach Bob Huggins lamented his team’s 15.5 turnovers per game last season, and West Virginia opened with 14 — 11 in the second half.
Akron took an 11-5 lead before Haley converted a three-point play and Matthews hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give West Virginia a 14-11 lead. The Mountaineers led by as many as 16 in the first half.
West Virginia’s top recruit, four-star freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe posted five points and five rebounds in 12 minutes. Sherman, a junior college transfer, scored eight points but left late in the game with an ankle sprain.
—Field Level Media