Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

Emmitt Matthews Jr. leads WVU to season sweep of Iowa State

MORGANTOWN — In what may have been one of the most intriguing, inspiring and chaotic games of the season for West Virginia, Emmitt Matthews Jr. simply wouldn’t let the Mountaineers lose.

Playing as the center down the stretch — WVU was forced to play with a smaller lineup for much of the second half — Matthews came up with two critical blocked shots and also scored on a backdoor cut and two free throws that helped the Mountaineers hold off Iowa State 72-69 inside Hilton Coliseum.

Matthews finished with 13 points, four rebounds and the two blocks, as the Mountaineers pulled off a season sweep of the Cyclones.


WVU rode the hot hands of Erik Stevenson and Joe Toussaint to take a 35-27 halftime lead.

Both used a mixture of 3-pointers and getting into the paint.

Stevenson began the game with three consecutive 3-pointers, not really a surprise since he’s combined for 13 of them in his last three games to go along with 73 points.

For Toussaint, though, his fast start was a sort of redemption.

The senior guard had the ball in his hands for the majority of the final 23 seconds in Saturday’s two-point setback against Kansas only to turn the ball over with 0.4 seconds remaining on a traveling call.

Once Toussaint came off the bench against the Cyclones (17-12, 8-9 Big 12), he made an instant impact by nailing a fade-away three with the shot clock running low to give WVU (17-13, 6-11) an 18-17 lead.

“Joe Toussaint was really good,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said on his radio postgame show. “Emmitt was out of gas. He was tired, but he made some great blocked shots down at the other end for us. Joe got the game turned around for us. He kind of got us going again.”

Toussaint followed that up with another 3-pointer from the corner when teammate Tre Mitchell found him with the extra pass, and then added yet another three that was all part of a 14-7 run that gave WVU a 29-22 advantage.

All of it and more was needed by WVU, which entered the game projected as one of the final four teams to make the NCAA tournament field, according to ESPN’s Bracketology.

The fact WVU has played well recently on the road won’t hurt its chances of making it into the field of 68, either.

The Mountaineers went toe-to-toe with the third-ranked Jayhawks just two days earlier before falling on the final possession.

This time around, WVU earned its third true road victory of the season to go along with victories against Pitt and Texas Tech.

Meanwhile, Iowa State lost its fourth consecutive game and has fallen in six of its last seven down the stretch.

The second half began with some injury news. While battling for a loose ball with Aljaz Kunc, Kedrian Johnson fell hard to the floor on his right hip and immediately began limping. Johnson has battled sore hips since last season and was summoned to the bench.

“Kedy took a big fall,” Huggins said. “He still fought through it and came back and played.”

WVU also played most of the game without forward James Okonkwo, who injured his ankle in the first half and Mohammed Wague set out his second game after injuring his right foot.

Johnson did get back into the game midway through the second half, but by then Iowa State’s Gabe Kalscheur had shot the Cyclones back into a 49-46 lead with 12:20 remaining after it had trailed by 10 in the opening minute of the second half.

That’s when all chaos took over.

In trying to post up against Kunc, Mitchell elbowed the Iowa State forward in the face. While on the ground, Kunc kicked his leg up at Mitchell, which began a confrontation between the two teams.

Once the dust had settled, a Flagrant 2 foul had been called on Mitchell, which forced his ejection and Kunc was called for a technical foul.

Mitchell’s ejection and foul trouble from Jimmy Bell Jr. forced the smaller lineup by Huggins.

“We went small. Offensively that really helped us,” Huggins said. “Defensively, we had some guys who really did a good job for us.”

Kunc missed his two free throws and Toussaint made his two, which cut Iowa State’s lead, 52-48, with 10:44 remaining.

Seth Wilson then nailed a 3-pointer to make it 52-51, but the Mountaineers weren’t able to regain the momentum until Matthews made his impact in the final minutes.

He made two free throws with 2:10 remaining that gave WVU a 65-64 lead it would not give back.

He then hauled in a pass from Toussaint on a backdoor cut for a slam dunk a minute later.

“Emmitt you just can’t say enough about,” Huggins said. “He blocked shots and made plays for us at the defensive end. Seth comes in and hits shots for us. I thought it was a great team effort.”

It still went down to the final play.

After Kalscheur nailed a three with 10 seconds left, Toussaint nailed two more free throws and then Iowa State’s Tre King scored on an offensive rebound to cut WVU’s lead to 71-69.

Stevenson, who finished with 23 points, then went 1 for 2 at the foul line, but Tamin Lipsey’s full-court pass was intercepted by Matthews to end the game.

Toussaint finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, while Kalscheur led the Cyclones with 26 points.

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