By JOHN LOWE
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia set a school record for forcing turnovers, putting the loss to Temple behind them.
Esa Ahmad scored 19 points to lead No. 25 West Virginia to a 108-61 victory Monday night in the final game of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
The Mountaineers (5-1) surpassing the school record of 34 by VMI in 2014-15.
“I thought we did a pretty good job but I think a lot of it was they didn’t have a long time to prepare,” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. “They came down from beating Detroit in double-overtime. I know that they had a workout yesterday and a shootaround today. I think that’s why we should be better the second night although we weren’t against Temple.”
The game was a much needed psychological boost after a failed comeback against Temple at Barclays Center on Friday.
“(We) don’t take anyone for granted,” Ahmad said. “We wanted to come out and go 100 percent right out of the gate and that’s what we did.”
West Virginia started the game on an 8-0 run over the first 3 minutes, then both teams essentially traded baskets through the next 12 minutes. In the final 5 minutes of the half, James Long and Nathan Adrian led a 22-5 scoring run, giving the Mountaineers a 60-27 halftime lead.
Adrian had 15 points for West Virginia, while Daxter Miles Jr. added 11 and Long had a career-high 10.
Zavier Peart led the Jaspers (2-4) with 11 points. Manhattan outrebounded the Mountaineers, 41-40.
“(When) you’re playing on the road, at West Virginia, that’s tough in itself, then add on their style of play,” Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said. “So, you have three things against you right there.”
Manhattan is impressive off the glass, averaging around 40 rebounds per game but also averages 23 turnovers per game.
West Virginia averages around 27 forced turnovers per game, but is shooting 63 percent from the free throw line.
West Virginia had only 11 turnovers, as opposed to Manhattan’s 40. The Mountaineers remain on top of the NCAA in turnover margin at 16.1.
Huggins played eight players off the bench for more than 10 minutes. West Virginia’s reserves scored 62 points, the most this season for the Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers’ win over Manhattan should have virtually no effect on their placement in the AP Top 25 but their game against No. 6 Virginia will likely decide where they will finish next Monday.
Manhattan hosts Canisius on Friday.
West Virginia plays at No. 6 Virginia on Saturday.