MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) Juwan Staten scored 20 points and Devin Williams added 15 as West Virginia knocked off upset-minded Monmouth Friday night 64-54 in the opening game of the season for both teams.
The Mountaineers used a 21-4 run in a little more than five, second-half minutes to polish off the Hawks. During the span, the visitors failed to score a basket against West Virginia’s pressure defense.
Deon Jones had 14 and Andrew Nicholas had 10 points for Monmouth.
Monmouth led 46-36 with 7:36 remaining, but the Hawks got in foul trouble and the Mountaineers took advantage of it. Three big men – Brice Kofane, Zac Tillman and Chris Brady – fouled out for Monmouth. Meanwhile, Williams made them pay.
The 6-foot-9, 255-pound sophomore had only three field goals, but netted 9 of 14 free throws. He also pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds.
Williams scored three field goals and connected on 5-of-7 free throws in the game’s last 6:40.
But it was what the Mountaineer forward did without the ball that was equally important in giving head coach Bob Huggins his 741st career victory.
Kofane completed a three-point play to give Monmouth a 46-36 advantage. But the 6-foot-8 senior’s field goal would be just one of two that coach King Rice’s team would make the rest of the way.
West Virginia scored eight straight points to pull within 46-44 with 5:38 remaining in the game. Chase Connor started the streak with a 3-point shot, but Williams did the dirty work.
He made 2 of 4 free throws, the first of which after he got 6-foot-10 Brady to foul out. On the other end of the floor, he blocked a shot out-of-bounds and then drew a charge to give the Mountaineers the ball back. Gary Browne completed the run with a 3-pointer.
The dash was part of a larger streak when West Virginia outscored Monmouth 29-9.
Staten connected on 4-of-9 shots and made 11 of 12 free throws to lead the Mountaineers. West Virginia connected on only 18 of 69 field goals (26.1 percent).
The Mountaineers enjoyed a 49-33 advantage in rebounding. Monmouth was called for 31 fouls against just 17 for West Virginia.
WEST VIRGINIA-Huggins ran his record to 741-302 as he enters his 33rd season all-time. Those victories not only put him third on the list of active coaches’ wins (behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim), but he tied former Temple coach John Chaney for 16th on the all-time coaching win list.
MONMOUTH-Coach Rice is 33-62 at Monmouth after three straight 20-or-more loss seasons. The former North Carolina product signed a three-year contract extension through 2019. Financial terms were not immediately released. He originally had signed a five-year deal in 2011.
West Virginia hosts Lafayette on Sunday.
Monmouth will tackle Bethune-Cookman at home on Nov. 21.