It took seven minutes until West Virginia scored its first field goal Thursday night.
By the time Terry Henderson’s 3-pointer fell for the Mountaineers, Missouri (8-0) was already up seven.
WVU shot 41.5 percent from the field on the game — 27.6 percent in the first half — giving the Tigers breathing room in the early going and ample opportunities to build a 25-point lead in an 80-71 win front of 7,292 at Mizzou Arena.
“We didn’t score seemingly for about an hour and a half,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “Probably, I would say we shot ourselves in the foot or blew our head off.”
Mizzou’s length, junior guard Jordan Clarkson said, forced WVU’s dry spell deep into the first half.
“We got a lot of long guys that can really disrupt people’s shots so when they’re shooting, they’re shooting over bigger guys,” he said. “That always has an effect on people.”
That the Tigers shot a lethal 52.9 percent from the field, didn’t much help West Virginia’s case either. Mizzou was shooting 75 percent halfway through the second half.
“When keep the ball moving and we have player movement, we’re pretty good offensively. We can stay in attack mode,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “We were getting stops. They both work together. You don’t have good offense unless you have good defense.”
Guards Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross combined for 59 of Missouri’s points. Coming into the game, the three average a combined 52.1 points of Missouri’s 80.6 per game.
To open the second half, one of the three scored 11 of Missouri’s first 12 baskets. On the 12th, a dunk by sophomore forward Ryan Rosburg, Clarkson assisted on the play.
Still the Mountaineers climbed back late, dropping into a 2-1-2 press that forced freshman guard Wes Clark into hazardous ball handling. In the final 6:15, West Virginia out-scored Missouri 24-12, at one point launching a 14-4 run that cut the lead to seven.
“We’re not going to quit,” Huggins said.
Defensively, the Tigers showed multiple looks, switching from man-to-man to zone defense out of timeouts. They scored 16 points in transition and out-rebounded the Mountaineers by a nearly 4-3 margin.
“We took horrible shots,” Huggins said. “It says a lot about a lack of maturity.”
Haith, though, said that stout defensive effort came for only 33 minutes. The final seven comprised West Virginia’s comeback.
“Most definitely to be a good defensive team all year long we have to bring 40 minutes, but 33 minutes is good,” senior forward Tony Criswell said.
Haith rolled his eyes at the remark and smirked.
“We allowed them to get in the paint,” Haith said. “We gave up some broken plays where we weren’t back setting our defense. They had some plays where we bobbled loose rebounds, they stuck it in. Those are momentum plays.”
Facing No. 18 UCLA on Saturday, those are the plays Mizzou will have to prevent, Haith said. The Bruins are too potent offensively.
“They’ve got the kind of length like us. They’re big,” Haith said. “We’ve got a lot to do in terms of preparation tomorrow in such a short period of time getting ourselves ready.”