James “Beetle” Bolden came off the bench to record 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists to help West Virginia produce a 78-68 victory over Lehigh on Sunday in nonconference play at Morgantown, W.Va.
Esa Ahmad added 21 points and nine rebounds for the Mountaineers (8-4), who recorded a season-high 52 rebounds in the win, with 22 coming on the offensive end.
Pat Andree finished with 18 points to lead Lehigh (7-4). Jordan Cohen added 14 for the Mountain Hawks, who collected just 25 boards.
The Mountaineers survived an upset bid from gritty Lehigh but only after Ahmad and Derek Culver sparked a second-half run.
Before a critical 12-2 run that began with 7:07 remaining in the game, the Mountaineers held a slim 59-57 lead. That changed with a free throw from Ahmad, who soon hit a short jumper that gave the Mountaineers a 62-57 lead.
After that, Derek Culver got into the action. Playing in just his second career college game after serving a 10-game suspension to start the season because of violation of team rules, Culver scored converted a three-point play along the baseline and then added another score off an offensive rebound. The freshman from Youngstown, Ohio, recorded his first collegiate double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Ahmad finished the run with two more free throws and another short jumper that put the game out of reach, 71-59, with 3:03 remaining.
Ahmad was limited to just four minutes of action in last week’s 74-72 victory against Jacksonville State.
In trying to create some type of spark, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins decided to start freshman Jordan McCabe at point guard, while bringing Bolden off the bench. McCabe made an impact early, hitting his first 3-pointer that gave the Mountaineers a 7-2 lead.
Lehigh remained close due to its 3-point shooting. Entering the game tied for first in the country shooting 45 percent from behind the arc as a team, Andree went 3 of 5 from 3-point range and the Mountain Hawks were 4 of 9 during a first half that was back-and-forth.
Andree scored 15 points in the first half and West Virginia’s shooting cooled off to the point that Huggins continued to rotate players in and out while searching for the right combination.
West Virginia played its third straight game without junior center Sagaba Konate, who sat on the bench in street clothes and crutches. His right knee does not appear to be ready for practice or contact, which is not good news for the Mountaineers, who will host No. 11 Texas Tech on Wednesday to kickoff Big 12 play.
In his place, walk-on Logan Routt started, but rotated with Culver and sophomore Andrew Gordon. The trio combined for 13 points and 18 rebounds.
—Field Level Media