BLACKSBURG, Va. - When WVU's basketball team left its hotel Tuesday, it was still morning. The "Price Is Right" was on television, and the Mountaineers were headed for their own Showcase Showdown against former Big East rival Virginia Tech at Cassell Coliseum as part of the 6th annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon on ESPN.
Early on, WVU rose and shined, building a 17-point lead (31-14) with 8:21 left in the first half. Then the game turned into a cliffhanger. Finally, WVU fell off the cliff, losing 87-82 to a Hokies team that lost last Saturday on the same court to USC Upstate.
Afterward, Mountaineer guard Eron Harris, who had 16 points, said he believed WVU had the better players. His teammate, Juwan Staten, agreed.
"I definitely believe that," Staten said. "We came out making plays, and that's what we're capable of doing. We kind of let our guard down, made mistakes and let them creep back in. We should have put them away early."
It seemed that's what West Virginia (1-1) was doing. Virginia Tech had a few blocked shots early, but the Mountaineers were moving well, hustling on defense and flashing active hands. Staten had a steal and Gary Browne a jumper to push the WVU lead to 23-10.
Staten seemed to assume control with a monster dunk that was waved off in favor of a Tech foul away from the play. Later, Staten turned over Tech guard Adam Smith. Hokie guard Ben Emelogu shot an air ball - on a free throw.
At the end of the first half, though, WVU seriously cooled. Tech was the one rising and shining. After holding a 37-22 lead at 4:06, the Mountaineers allowed the Hokies to mount a 14-4 run.
The half was closed when WVU was attempting to run out the clock. Terry Henderson, returning from injury, shot early. It gave Tech enough time to rush down and receive a 3-point goal from Emelogu just before the buzzer.
"We screwed the game up in the first half," said WVU coach Bob Huggins. "I've got a bunch of freshmen that don't understand how hard you have to play all the time. We got up  and stopped guarding. When you stop guarding, people take advantage of you."
Virginia Tech assumed control in the second half, while West Virginia appeared tentative. Staten was out of control at times. Devin Williams fouled over the back on a free throw miss. With 14:33 left, the Hokies had a 10-point lead.
The Mountaineers, though, remained in the game, largely because of Remi Dibo's 12 second-half points, all via the 3-point shot.
WVU regained the lead after a Browne trey and an Harris steal and layup made it 74-73. Later, Mountaineer Nathan Adrian hit a deep 3 from the right wing to give the visitors a 77-76 advantage.
But, like that, Tech got a turnaround jumper from Jarell Eddie, a bucket from Smith and was up 80-77. The dagger was a flying Smith drive along the baseline and shot that banked in with 33.2 seconds left. Browne was also called for a foul. The four-point advantage was enough.
Tech converted 60.9 percent of its field goals in the second half, while WVU hit 35.3 and 35.7 in the game. The Hokies had 13 blocked shots.
"Their run came because we missed layups and free throws - and allowed wide-open shots," Huggins said. "We've got to cut out all the careless stuff.
"You can't let people shoot 60 percent. And, in spite of that, if we make 50 percent of our layups we win the game. And we missed, what, 7 or 9 free throws in the second half? We should be an 80 percent free-throw shooting team because our guys that attack the rim are normally very good free-throw shooters."
WVU missed eight foul shots in the second half and converted 21 of 33 (63.6 percent) for the game.
"We have to make a commitment," Dibo said. "We can't let anybody outrun or outplay us. We need to make a commitment as a team to play harder than anybody.
"We didn't stick to our plan. We knew we had to fight for rebounds. We knew we had to attack the paint. We had to make our shots.
"Obviously today we didn't attack the paint and finish like we should."
Emelogu had 22 points, while Smith scored 19 points for the victors. WVU received 17 from Dibo, 16 from Harris, 15 from Browne and 10 from Staten.
The Tech victory came on a day in which Hokie athletic director Jim Weaver announced his resignation.
"It's a good day, a victory over West Virginia," said Tech coach James Johnson. "It's a good retirement present for him."
WVU will host Duquesne at 4 p.m. Sunday. The game will be televised by Root.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.
Virginia Tech 87, WVU 82
Virginia Tech (1-1, 0-0 ACC)
Min FG FT R A P