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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) – Esa Ahmad and Sagaba Konate lit up in the second half and combined for 56 points to lift West Virginia over feisty Valparaiso 88-76 on Saturday afternoon.

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After starting the game with only two points, both coming from the foul line, Konate lit up the second half for the Mountaineers (3-2) with a career-high 26 points, including a career-high five three-pointers, and earned a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Ahmad’s career-high 30 points led West Virginia throughout the game as Valparaiso (3-3) kept the game competitive in the first half, even taking the lead with over five minutes to play in the first half.

Lamont West added 11 points for WVU and had six rebounds of his own.

Four Crusaders finished in double figures with Derrik Smits leading with a near-career-high 20 points and seven rebounds.

Ryan Fazekas finished with 15 points on the day, including nine from beyond the arc. Markus Golder added 13 points and Bakari Evelyn scored 10.

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Valparaiso: The Brown and Gold have failed to close out second half leads in losses to Western Kentucky and Wake Forest. The Crusaders will need to improve its second half offense in order to compete in the Missouri Valley.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers have struggled with cold shooting snaps from the field in the first half against Buffalo, Monmouth, Western Kentucky and Valparaiso (two of those games ended up being losses). Consistent shooting is something that needs to be improved on as WVU nears its heavy non-conference schedule with Florida, Pitt and Rhode Island ahead.


The Crusaders will head to Las Vegas to take on UNLV in the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge on Wednesday.

The Mountaineers will continue their three-game homestand against Rider on Wednesday.

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