MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia earned its third-straight home win on Wednesday, defeating No. 11 Iowa State 76-71. It also marked its third victory over a top-15 opponent this season.
Erik Stevenson had a lot of attention after scoring a career-high 34 points in the previous game. Against ISU, Stevenson got a little banged up early and eventually fouled out of the contest.
After WVU’s leading scorer went down, Kedrian Johnson and Emmitt Matthews knew they needed to step up.
“Seeing a guy like Erik down, especially with our history…I didn’t like the play that happened,” Matthews said. “That’s motivation for me.”
The duo combined for 42 points in the victory. Johnson matched his career-high with 22 points, while Matthews reached a season-high 20. It was his 12th double-figure scoring performance of the season. He scored just two points the game prior.
“I came back here to win games. I didn’t come back here to average 20 points. I didn’t come back here to get a bunch of buckets. I came back here to try to do something special with this team,” Matthews said. “Obviously, we’ve been off to a slow start in Big 12 and right now we are trying to correct it all.”
Matthews shot 70 percent from the floor against the Cyclones. His seven field goals made are season-high. While he did connect on one three-point attempt and cashed in on five-of-six free throws, the bulk of his scoring came from taking it to the rack.
“We’ve got great shooters. Not just good shooters, great shooters. They have to guard us,” he said. “They can’t not guard Erik. They can’t not guard Keddy. Can’t not guard Joe. These are guys you have to guard, so when you forget about me, I’m just going to go to the basket and score.”
Head coach Bob Huggins said after the game Matthews’ length is what makes him one of the team’s best defenders. He called it Matthews’ biggest advantage.
The fifth-year forward is averaging the second-most minutes on the team with 28.7 per game. He’s No. 3 on the team in rebounds with 3.6 per game and No. 5 in scoring with 9.6 points per contest.
Even on nights when he isn’t seeing it go through the hoop, his defense is what keeps him in the action. Matthews called it his main assignment.
“Usually, me and Keddy guard the best player. If the best player is a point guard, Keddy is going to guard him. If it’s two through four, I’m usually going to guard them. I know that’s my role,” Matthews said. “I was sticking with that tonight and letting the game come to me. Making seven of 10, I was just really efficient. There have been games when I’ve shot eight or nine shots and made two or even zero. The shots fell tonight.”
West Virginia returns to action at No. 5 Texas on Saturday at noon.