MORGANTOWN — No. 25 Penn State had no answers Monday. West Virginia now has one giant question: Are these Mountaineers for real?
The Nittany Lions certainly can’t argue otherwise, not after getting run out of the Coliseum to the tune of an 83-65 beating that sometimes felt like it wasn’t even that close.
“It was a great result,” WVU head coach Mark Kellogg said. “I thought our effort, our energy was phenomenal from the jump. I had seen spurts of that throughout the season, but we hadn’t put it all together.
“I’m just really proud of them. They worked really hard.”
WVU (8-0) ended a six-game losing streak against Penn State (7-2), picking up its first victory against the Nittany Lions since 1989.
How did it all come so easily?
Well, Penn State simply had no counterpunch for West Virginia’s pressure defense, which produced 26 turnovers and 18 steals.
Or for WVU star guard J.J. Quinerly (22 points) and certainly not for the Mountaineers’ willingness to share the ball and score in transition.
“I don’t know if it was easy,” said WVU guard Lauren Fields, who connected on four 3-pointers, including one from 40 feet away. “The biggest thing was we played with effort. At the end of the game looking back, you can tell we played harder than they did.”
In winning its first seven games by an average of nearly 27 points per game, the doubts still remained due to the level of competition WVU faced in those games.
No more. Not after picking apart a Penn State team that had just joined the AP Top 25 rankings earlier in the day and narrowly lost to No. 6 USC by one point earlier in the season.
“I feel like it gives us a lot of confidence,” said WVU guard Jordan Harrison, who finished with 14 points, nine assists and six steals. “We knew we could do it if given the opportunity. It’s definitely a confidence booster, considering our schedule hasn’t been that tough.
“We showed people that we are good, we’re just not smacking around these not-so-good teams. We actually compete against better teams.”
WVU finished with 21 assists on its 28 baskets, while shooting 46% for the game.
Meanwhile, Penn State guards Makenna Marisa and Shay Ciezki — they combined to average 32 points per game — were held to just eight.
Ciezki didn’t score a single point and committed three turnovers. Marisa was held to single digits in scoring for the first time this season.
“The team knew about those two guards, so we wanted to shut them down,” Harrison said. “They didn’t really have much success and I think we executed really well.”
It was WVU’s first win against a top 25 ranked team since last February, when the Mountaineers beat then-No. 21 Iowa State.
But this was the first one for Kellogg, who just took over the program nine months ago after coming over from Stephen F. Austin.
He was quick to defer any credit for how quickly he’s brought things together at WVU, making it about his players’ accomplishments instead.
Still, he’s just eight games into his coaching career at his first Power Five Conference school, and, well, so far so good.
“To see that performance eight games in is pretty special. I think we’ve come a long way in a short period of time,” Kellogg said. “I told them in the locker room that I hope this isn’t the win we talk about late in the year. I hope it’s not the only Top 25 win. I hope there are a lot more coming.”
WVU began to pull away in the second quarter by forcing one turnover after the other and turning them into fast-break points the other way.
Penn State did climb back into it in the fourth quarter, getting as close as 74-62, but then Quinerly connected on two free throws and Harrison nailed one of WVU’s eight 3-pointers to seal the deal.
WVU scored 31 points off the 26 turnovers forced, had 38 points in the paint and 25 more on fast breaks. The 18 steals tied a season high for the Mountaineers.
Kyah Watson added 15 points for WVU and Tavy Diggs came off the bench to add 10 more to go along with four rebounds.
“I don’t know that it surprises me,” Kellogg said. “I was wishful for it, hoping for it. I was hoping my team would show me something I just haven’t seen. Until you see it with your eyes and go through these experiences, I don’t know.
“We haven’t gone through this. This is game eight for us. I trusted them a little bit. I don’t know that I expected it to be this early, but I’m certainly thankful and they deserved it.”