CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) Esa Ahmad and No. 15 West Virginia made sure there was no drop off in performance against an outmanned opponent after an emotional road win at Virginia.
The Mountaineers were solid again on defense and Ahmad led another balanced scoring attack with 14 points as West Virginia stomped Western Carolina 90-37 on Wednesday night.
West Virginia (7-1) didn’t slow down after Saturday’s close win at No. 14 Virginia. The Mountaineers forced 34 turnovers against Western Carolina, a week after setting a school record by forcing 40 against Manhattan.
“We couldn’t come out here and lay an egg,” Ahmad said.
Truth is, Ahmad and West Virginia forward Elijah Macon said the Mountaineers were aiming to force 50 turnovers.
Macon said that could come eventually.
“With this group, you never know what can happen,” Macon said. “We got 40. I think we can get 10 more out of that.”
The Mountaineers lead the nation in scoring margin (30.3), forced turnovers (25), steals per game (13) and turnover margin (14.7).
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said he didn’t like his team’s energy out of the gate, even though the Mountaineers scored the game’s first seven points and used a 16-0 run to build a 25-point lead midway through the first half.
“We didn’t have a lot of bounce,” Huggins said. “I thought we were very sluggish to start with.”
Western Carolina (3-6) went scoreless over the final 7:39 and trailed 46-12 at halftime. By then, the Catamounts had 19 turnovers to far surpass their season average. And West Virginia’s pressure defense was just getting started. A 26-4 run by the Mountaineers followed early in the second half.
Jevon Carter added 13 points, Macon had 11 and Teyvon Myers scored 10 for the Mountaineers, who had 21 steals.
Western Carolina’s Haboubacar Mutombo was limited to six points, six under his team-leading average.
“We didn’t give them our best punch today,” Western Carolina guard Elijah Pughsley said.
Western Carolina: The Catamounts simply couldn’t match the onslaught of players off the bench for the Mountaineers. Western Carolina didn’t help its own cause, shooting 26 percent from the field. Starting guard Devin Peterson didn’t make the trip.
“The game’s really, really difficult when you can’t score,” Western Carolina coach Larry Hunter said. “Somebody’s got to put us on their back a little bit and say, `I’m going to score.”‘
West Virginia: The game was an opportunity for Huggins to get his younger players some valuable playing time and to see who’s ready for the start of the Big 12 schedule in three weeks. West Virginia had 13 players score and 12 who had at least 10 minutes of playing time; no one played more than 19 minutes.
Huggins earned his 798th career coaching win. Hunter has 683 career wins and was inducted earlier this year into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame along with Huggins’ father, Charlie, who won three high school state championships as a coach.
Despite the loss of its top two rebounders from last season, West Virginia has increased its output slightly to 40 per game this season, although its rebounding margin is down to 4.9 compared with 8.6 last season. Western Carolina managed to match West Virginia with 36 rebounds apiece.
The Mountaineers’ 53-point win could help them inch toward the Top 10 in the AP poll .
Western Carolina plays at UNC Asheville on Dec. 17. It’s the final game in a seven-game road swing for the Catamounts.
West Virginia plays VMI in Morgantown on Saturday. West Virginia forced 36 turnovers the last time these teams met in 2014.