WVU Pulls Away from Robert Morris

MORGANTOWN – Sophomore center Danny Jennings earned his first collegiate start for West Virginia on Tuesday night against Robert Morris.

He opened it with a slam dunk and watched the end of the 82-49 rout from a seat on the bench.

Problem is, he took that seat earlier than he could have ever guessed.

As is the usually the case, the same five that started the first half took the court to begin the second for the Mountaineers, but not for long.

After watching the outmanned Colonials (3-5) hang with the Mountaineers (6-2) all the way through the first half, then open the second half with a 3-pointer by Russell Johnson to get within one point at 32-31, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins called a timeout 24 seconds in and signaled for a new five.

The first handful to win the race to the scorer’s table were in.

”I wasn’t displeased with Danny (who had six points and one rebound in 11 minutes),” Huggins said. ”He came in and gave us a good effort. He just happened to be in the group that wasn’t doing anything.”

Out came Jennings, Kevin Jones, John Flowers, Truck Bryant, and Casey Mitchell. In went Cam Thoroughman, Jonnie West, Joe Mazzulla, Deniz Kilicli, and Dalton Pepper.

Jennings, Jones, and Mitchell never saw another minute in the game.

”I just tired of watching guys not play,” Huggins said. ”I’ve got great respect for the game and the way the game is supposed to be played. The 6,443 (fans) that showed up deserved to watch better.”

In the end, the starters, led by 12 points and 10 rebounds from a banged up Flowers, wound up outscoring that particular five, 42-35, and barely outrebounding it, 20-19, but it was the 15-4 run those guys produced that turned the tide toward the Mountaineers during the next 5:21. That pushed West Virginia’s paltry lead to 47-35 and the rout was on.

”We passed the ball, we reversed the ball,” Huggins said. ”They came out with all that pressure initially and we didn’t pass the ball. That’s the worst thing you can do against pressure. You have to move the ball against pressure.”

Huggins claimed to have little input as to which five went into the game, and later said he looked out on the court and wondered where the scoring was going to come from. That makes sense because, point or no point to be made, Huggins never purposely sends a bad defensive player in a game.

But the whole thing might have been more calculated than the coach was letting on, even as he admitted he’s done it his entire career – including spots as the Mountaineers coach – and had success not necessarily from a message standpoint, but from a tactical one.

”We were just moving the ball a little better,” Pepper said. ”We were reversing it and they were all out of position on defense. Everyone plays with everyone during practice. Once you go hard out there, you help out your team and everybody else sees you play hard. I guess we just came out ready to play.”

Pepper did his part, as he finished with nine points and four rebounds and made one of the Mountaineers’ season-low two 3-pointers.

All of this gave Robert Morris Coach Andrew Toole plenty to think about going forward.

”I thought we stopped fighting and that’s scary for a coach,” he said. ”I think one of the trademarks of this program over the last few years is that we’ve always kept fighting. Once we missed some shots (the Colonials shot 25 percent in the second half, 30 for the game) we allowed ourselves to dictate how we wanted to be defended.”

Charles Yann and Coron Williams each scored 11 points to lead Robert Morris.

Kilicli led West Virginia with 14 points and Bryant matched Flowers’ 12. All told, 11 different Mountaineers scored among the 13 who saw game action.