MORGANTOWN - Kent State took West Virginia's ball and went home.
The Mountaineers led the debuting Golden Flashes, 37-32, with 17 and a half minutes left in Tuesday's 10 a.m. tilt at the WVU Coliseum before Kent State (1-0) went on a 32-14 run that spanned the better part of 12 minutes by simply taking the ball away from the Mountaineers (1-1) and creating one easy scoring chance after another.
In the end, the Golden Flashes won 70-60, the beneficiaries of some sloppy play on both ends by the Mountaineers, who turned the ball over 17 times and tried, and failed, many times to make a free throw.
Kent State center Justin Manns, left, loses WVU’s Deniz Kilicli (13), who drives to the basket Tuesday in Morgantown.
WVU coach Bob Huggins, who is overseeing his youngest team since his return to Morgantown, understands a lot of things about basketball. This isn't one of them.
''You're not going to take my ball,'' he said. ''It's been very, very good to me. And to me, if you come try to steal my ball, I'm going to bust you in the mouth. ... Particularly if you walk into my house and try to take my ball. It isn't going to go very well.
''And that's what I tried to explain to them. That ball has gotten you this far. It's gotten you a free education, like it did me. It can take you further if you take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you because you've got that ball. Why do you want anybody to come in and take from you?
''It's maybe an oversimplification, but that's the way you've got to look at it.''
Kent State had 30 points in the paint despite Huggins' best efforts to try and prevent just that. The Golden Flashes got plenty of easy looks in the first half against West Virginia's man defense but missed most of them (8 of 21 inside the 3-point arc), but that quickly changed at the start of the second half, where they shot 58 percent (18 of 31).
So Huggins, trying to think of anything to quell that, called for a 2-3 zone defense - a first - and, later, a 1-3-1 in hopes of cleaning out that lane. It didn't work. Too many guys taking plays off, the coach noticed.
''There's not a defense in the world you can play where you don't guard the ball,'' he said. ''Otherwise people just drive in the lane and shoot a layup. There's no option for not guarding the ball.''
And no reward.
All of this made big mornings by Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli go for naught. Jones had 15 points and 18 rebounds (seven offensively) and Kilicli added 11 points and 15 boards, a couple of monstrous double-doubles.
''We kinda gave them the ball,'' Jones said. ''(We) made silly turnovers. Guys were playing too fast and I don't know why because we were up. They sped us up at some point in the game. And I don't know how they did it, but that led to some turnovers and easy baskets.''
Truck Bryant had six turnovers of his own. Jones, Kilicli, and Jabarie Hinds combined for eight more. Bryant, who admitted he tried to do too much, was 4 of 13 from the field, 4 of 7 from the free-throw line, and wound up with 12 points.
''I think I played a bad game,'' he said. ''I wasn't into it defensively, and I think that's what led to me playing bad offensively. Usually, I'm into it. I just wasn't playing my game. I turned the ball over way to much.''
West Virginia led by five at 33-28 at halftime despite a 7-minute, 42-second stretch in which it scored just two points - a jumper by Bryant - but helped itself on the glass with Jones (10) and Kilicli (9) combining for 19 rebounds - 11 of the offensive end.
They needed help that never came, Huggins said.
''They're trying like crazy to rebound missed free throws (WVU was 16 of 28 from the line) and I've got a freshman just standing over there watching,'' Huggins said. ''To me, that's inexcusable because that's lack of effort. We're going to do some dumb stuff because we just don't know. We're going to make some bad plays. But our effort shouldn't change.
''They're going to look at this and say we outrebounded them. No you didn't, Deniz and K.J. did. (They) got 33 of our 46. It would be nice if somebody else helped us. (Aaron Brown) had four in the first half, didn't get any in the second.''
Meanwhile, Kent State's balanced scoring saw four players reach double figures. Carlton Guyton had 17, Randal Holt had 13, Justin Greene finished with 12, and Michael Porrini had 11.
Hinds added 13 points and three assists for the Mountaineers.