Esa Ahmad scored a career-high 30 points on 12-for-15 shooting, and host West Virginia pulled away for an 88-76 win over Valparaiso on Saturday afternoon in Morgantown, West Va.
Sagaba Konate added 26 points, also a career high, on 9-for-15 shooting along with 10 rebounds. Lamont West added 11 points and six rebounds as West Virginia (3-2) won its second straight contest.
Derrik Smits scored 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting with seven rebounds and five blocks to lead Valparaiso (3-3). Three others finished in double digits for the Crusaders, including Ryan Fazekas (15 points), Markus Golder (13) and Bakari Evelyn (10).
West Virginia shot 49.2 percent (32 of 65) from the field and 41.2 percent (7 of 17) from beyond the 3-point line.
Valparaiso shot 53.6 percent (30 of 56) overall and 45 percent (9 of 20) from distance.
West Virginia held a 63-61 edge before establishing more separation in the final 10 minutes of the second half. A jump shot by Emmitt Matthews Jr. put the Mountaineers ahead by 11 with 6:37 remaining.
Konate made the lead stand with a jump shot and a 3-pointer inside the 5-minute mark. He scored 24 of his 26 points after the break, including five 3-pointers. His previous career high was 20 points.
West Virginia held on to a 39-36 lead at halftime.
The Mountaineers jumped to a 14-5 advantage to start the game. Ahmad made a 3-pointer and a layup to spark a 7-0 run.
The Crusaders eventually rallied to pull ahead 21-20 with 7:46 remaining in the half. Fazekas drained a 3-pointer and followed up with a jump shot to finish off an 11-2 run that ended with Valparaiso on top.
Deion Lavender had 10 assists to lead Valparaiso. Brandon Knapper paced the Mountaineers with seven assists.
It was the second all-time meeting between the programs. The first matchup took place Dec. 28, 2001, when Valparaiso held on for a surprise 76-57 victory over favored West Virginia.
West Virginia will host Rider on Wednesday in its next game. The Crusaders will visit Las Vegas to take on UNLV on Wednesday.
—Field Level Media