West Virginia has opened the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic on the right foot.
Behind a career-high 27 points from Taz Sherman, the Mountaineers defeated Elon in the first round, 87-68.
A diverse offensive attack put West Virginia ahead early as four different Mountaineers scored before the game’s first timeout. Led by Sherman, the team kept a constant buffer of five or so points ahead of Elon in the game’s early minutes.
West Virginia caught a break as Howard McIntosh, Elon’s returning leading-scorer from last season, went to the bench with three fouls roughly halfway through the game’s first half.
Soon after, an 11-2 run — ending in a layup, steal and assist in quick succession by freshman guard Kobe Johnson — pushed the Mountaineers’ lead to 12, forcing an Elon timeout.
West Virginia’s lead would remain in double digits until roughly four minutes remained in the first half as a handful of balls bounced Elon’s way. The Phoenix shrunk the deficit to five points, but were unable to make more ground before halftime.
The Mountaineers entered the break in possession of a 44-37 lead.
West Virginia came out firing in the second half, building and maintaining a comfortable lead over the Phoenix.
Despite four scoring in double digits, Elon did little to stand in West Virginia’s way. Sherman could not be stopped, while guard Sean McNeil supplemented with scoring success of his own.
The Mountaineers’ lead continued to rise as the game went on because of that, and the Phoenix could, really, only sit and watch.
Sherman’s 27 points came on 9-of-17 shooting from the field, including 1-of-5 from the three-point line. He broke his previous career high in scoring, coming last year when he scored 26 points against Baylor.
Forward Pauly Paulicap led the Mountaineers with six rebounds.
The win was Bob Huggins’ 903rd all-time, tying him with former Kansas and North Carolina coach Roy Williams for fourth.
Fourteen of 15 Mountaineers played Thursday. The lone outlier was freshman forward James Okonkwo, who is expected to redshirt.
West Virginia will face Marquette on Friday, with the opening tip scheduled for 7 p.m.