MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - When last West Virginia was seen beating a team of Iowa State's ilk by this kind of margin, the Mountaineers were building toward a Final Four appearance. It was late December of 2008 and WVU hammered No. 15 Ohio State by 28 points in Columbus, a season before their march to Indianapolis.
No one is suggesting that Monday night's 102-77 demolition of Iowa State is any sort of precursor to that kind of success, but given the distance this team has obviously come since its struggles as recently as last month, it was still a watershed moment.
Not that the Mountaineers are paying much attention to that, however.
"Every time we win it helps our confidence,'' point guard Juwan Staten said. "We really don't pay any attention to the number beside the teams we're playing.''
No, but for the record, that number on Monday was 11. That's where the Cyclones are ranked this week in the Associated Press poll. But for 40 minutes, in front of a Coliseum crowd of 8,177, it sure looked like West Virginia was the team with the number beside its name.
Fueled by a 3-point barrage first from Terry Henderson and then Remi Dibo, combined with a defensive effort that turned a 48-point scorer into a 1-for-9 shooter, West Virginia simply ran away and hid from the Cyclones.
It was the fourth win in the last five games for West Virginia (15-10, 7-5 Big 12), and the second against a Top 25 opponent in the last six days (the first was an overtime win against then-No. 21 Oklahoma). It also moved WVU ahead of the Cyclones (18-5, 6-5) and back into the top half of the Big 12 standings.
That the Mountaineers won was not all that surprising given their recent success. That they won by 25 was a bit more shocking. And that they won by scoring 102 points astonished even Bob Huggins.
"Yeah,'' the West Virginia coach said when asked if actually outscoring, rather than winning by controlling the tempo against the Big 12's best-scoring team, surprised him. "But if you think about it, we had pretty much the same shots against Kansas [in an 83-69 loss two days earlier] and we made them [Monday]. He made them.
"When those guys make shots, we're pretty good.''
The "he'' Huggins referred to was Henderson, who before the game's first TV timeout had a dunk and two 3-pointers. Henderson didn't stay on that pace - he had 11 of WVU's first 16 points, then scored just two more in the first half and three in the second for a total of 16 - but he didn't have to. His early shooting got the Mountaineers off on the right foot and everyone joined in.
By game's end, Dibo had six 3s and a career-high 20 points. Juwan Staten was his usual impeccable self with 19 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and just one turnover. Eron Harris - before he was tossed from the game late for a flagrant foul - added 16 points. Nathan Adrian had nine points and three steals before fouling out, and both Kevin Noreen and Gary Browne had eight points.
But it was Henderson's spark that ignited the fire.
"I knew I had to play way better than I did at Kansas,'' said Henderson, who had two points and attempted just three shots Saturday. "It felt good to get going early.''
By the time it was all over, West Virginia had made 53.8 percent of its shots, 13 of its 22 3-point tries and all but two of its 21 free throws. Huggins has said all season that when his team makes shots it is pretty good. And against the Cyclones they made shots.
"You have to give them credit. West Virginia played an excellent game by spacing and exposing us,'' said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. "We'll go back home and have a long film session.''
If the Cyclones are looking to correct things that went wrong, though, they will spend just as much time looking at what the Mountaineers did to them defensively. Iowa State had one player who seemed comfortable, but Georges Niang - who a year ago in Ames hit the game-winning layup to beat WVU - fouled out with eight minutes to play after scoring 17 points.
The rest of the Cyclones? Well, there wasn't much there against West Virginia. ISU missed 19 of its 23 3-point attempts - the Cyclones shoot and make more 3s than any team in the Big 12 - and shot just 36.6 percent overall. DeAndre Kane, the Marshall transfer, scored 14 points but had just two assists, five turnovers and was 2 for 6 at the foul line, including an air ball.
The real shock for the Cyclones, though, was Melvin Ejim. Two days after setting a Big 12 record with 48 points in a win over TCU, the 6-foot-6 Ejim had six points on 1-for-9 shooting. The Big 12's leading scorer, averaging 19.8 points, Ejim was 20 for 24 shooting in that TCU game.
Huggins credited that to changing defenses and keeping Ejim and the Cyclones off balance. Noreen, who was part of the inside crew that stopped Ejim, put it a bit simpler.
"What did he have, 48?'' Noreen asked. "Yeah, we wanted to do a better job on him.''
The only down side to the game for WVU was the ejection of Harris, which came well after the outcome had been decided. It happened when ISU's Dustin Hogue went up for a long rebound and in the process stuck out a leg and kicked Noreen to the floor. There was no whistle, play continued and when Iowa State's Monte Morris eventually tried to score inside, Harris basically tomahawked him.
After a long video review, the officials assessed a foul against Hogue for the kick and a flagrant 2 foul against Harris for clubbing Morris. Harris left the floor to a loud ovation.
NCAA rules do not provide for any other punishment to a player assessed a flagrant 2 foul, so barring any action by the Big 12 office Harris will not miss any playing time. West Virginia has just one game in the next 12 days, a Saturday night game at Texas.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
West Virginia 102, Iowa State 77
FG FT Reb
IOWA STATE Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Ejim 31 1-9 4-4 3-12 1 1 6
Hogue 24 6-10 3-5 6-10 1 4 15
Morris 32 3-12 4-7 4-6 6 1 10
Niang 28 6-12 3-3 1-3 2 5 17
Kane 32 6-15 2-6 3-6 2 2 14
Dorsey-Walker 13 0-3 2-2 1-2 1 3 2
Long 14 0-3 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Thomas 15 4-6 3-3 0-0 0 3 13