WVU’s spirited rally falls short in overtime, Mountaineers fall to Ohio State, 78-75


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West Virginia erased a 14-point first-half deficit but could not take a lead in the final 44 minutes against Ohio State, as the Mountaineers fell to the Buckeyes, 78-75 in overtime at the Legends of Basketball Showcase in Cleveland.

WVU ended regulation on a 12-4 run to force the extra session. However, OSU scored on their opening possession of overtime and never relinquished the lead the rest of the way.

Still seeking their first victory over a power conference opponent, WVU gave the 10-win Buckeyes all they could handle before falling short and concluding non-conference play with a 5-8 record.

“We battled,” said head coach Josh Eilert on the WVU radio postgame broadcast. “Early in the first half, I was worried about the way we were rebounding it. I challenged them man-to-man to fix it. They certainly took on that challenge.”

Both teams went on lengthy scoring runs in the first half. As foul trouble piled up for the Mountaineers, the Buckeyes went on a 19-5 run to build a 24-10 lead at the under eight-minute media timeout.

Dec 30, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers forward Akok Akok (13) and forward Patrick Suemnick (24) celebrate during the second half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

However, WVU picked up their level of play defensively, forcing 11 consecutive missed shots from the field by the Buckeyes. The Mountaineers pulled even at 26 with a 16-2 run. Kerr Kriisa’s lengthy 3-pointer tied the game with 1:10 remaining in the first half. A basket by Bruce Thornton in the final minute gave the Buckeyes a 28-26 halftime lead.

OSU needed less than four minutes in the second half to rebuild a double-digit lead. A bucket from Felix Okpara capped a 7-0 run and gave the Buckeyes a 40-30 lead with 16:10 to play.

West Virginia chipped away at the deficit as Noah Farrakhan began to heat up. He made field goals to pull WVU within two points (42-40) and three points (50-47) with nine minutes to play.

The Buckeyes extended their lead out to nine points (58-49) with seven minutes to play when Jamison Battle connected for two of his 17 points. WVU responded with an alley oop dunk from RaeQuan Battle to pull within five points at 58-53. With 4:30 to play, a 3-point play from Pat Suemnick cut the Mountaineer deficit to three points at 61-58.

Trailing 65-61, Suemnick scored on consecutive possessions to pull the Mountaineers even at 65 with 30 seconds to play. Sumenick scored nine points, his best scoring performance at WVU. He made all four of his field goal attempts and secured five rebounds.

Dec 30, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers guard Noah Farrakhan (1) drives to the basket against Ohio State Buckeyes guard Bruce Thornton (2) during the second half at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In the extra session, Jamison Battle’s 3-pointer on the opening possession gave the Buckeyes (11-2) an early advantage. RaeQuan Battle scored on putbacks on consecutive possessions to pull the Mountaineers within a basket at 71-69. RaeQuan Battle later scored on a breakaway dunk to bring WVU within three points at 78-75. Trailing by three with eight seconds left, Kriisa missed on the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity at the foul line. Jamison Battle secured the rebound and the Buckeyes ran out the remaining seconds.

“They’ve got a lot of heart and they are going to keep on battling,” Eilert said. “We’ve always got all these challenges. We are playing without a center. We’re trying to do everything we can to manage that while we wait for Jesse [Edwards] to heal up. They are not going to quit.

“We have such a small margin for error. It is a game of inches. It will make us sick when we look at the film and see some of those things that we could have easily corrected in the game.”

Ohio State held a narrow lead in rebounds (47-46). However, 18 offensive rebounds for the Buckeyes led to 14 second chance points. The Buckeyes led for 41:08.

RaeQuan Battle led the Mountaineers with 24 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes. Farrakhan added 19 points before fouling out in overtime.

“It is a great one-two punch,” Eilert said of Battle and Farrakhan. “Noah can handle the ball. He can play off the ball. It gives us a lot more opportunities to go downhill and get paint touches.”

OSU’s Roddy Gayle, Jr. led all scorers with 32 points.

The Mountaineers went 5-for-22 from 3-point range.

“This day and age, trying to win basketball games and five 3s is not going to cut it. We might want to look at some more volume there and try to get a few more up.”

A crowd of 12,211 watched the second meeting in four years between the two schools at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

West Virginia will open Big 12 Conference play at No. 3 Houston (13-0) next Saturday afternoon.

Former Fairmont State Falcon Dale Bonner pulled down three rebounds in 23 minutes for the Buckeyes.

WVU’s spirited rally falls short in overtime, Mountaineers fall to Ohio State, 78-75

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