WVU Overcomes Slow Start to Win

MORGANTOWN – Kevin Jones was collared by foul trouble, Deniz Kilicli’s was in the doghouse, and West Virginia, for a while, was in a dogfight with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Then the second half started, Jones was back on the floor, Kilicli got his mind right and Mountaineers broke open a game that was 32-28 at halftime and won, 84-64, on Saturday at the WVU Coliseum.

Jones picked up two quick fouls 68 seconds apart and sat for the final 14 minutes of the first half, while Kilicli wasn’t giving the kind of effort coach Bob Huggins wants, so he grabbed a seat for 15 minutes.

What was left on the floor was, at times, four freshmen and a junior college transfer, or five guys who weren’t a part of the team last season, helping breath life into a 1-6 program that has only been playing college basketball for 11 years.

“We weren’t ready to play,” Huggins said. “We thought we were going to come in and they were going to lay down and let us win.”

That took longer than anyone anticipated but Jones made his presence felt quickly in the second half, as he ripped off four straight layups as part of a 20-7 run to start the second half and the Mountaineers (7-2) cruised from there.

“I just wanted to come and set and example of just playing hard (which is) what Coach expects us to do every time we’re on the floor,” Jones said. “I sat out basically the whole first half so I was pretty fresh, and I just wanted to come out with as much energy as possible.”

Jones wound up with 22 points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes. Kilicli played 10 minutes of the second half – 15 in all – and finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

“With this team (the Islanders), we would get 25 anyways,” Kilicli said. “(Jones) was going to get what he got. I was going to get what I got, maybe better than what we did. But against this team, we should have just dominated the first half and sat the second half. We switched it up. We sat the first half and played the second half.”

West Virginia was up by 20 with 11:22 before the teams played dead even the rest of the way (25 each).

“We were bad in the shootaround; we weren’t ready to play,” Huggins said. “They knew if they weren’t going to play hard, they weren’t going to play. And some of them didn’t play. And you always have those guys that want to know what do I have to do to get in the game? Then you put them in the game, then everybody sees why you haven’t put them in the game.”

That led to a season- and career-high tying 21 minutes for Kevin Noreen, who had four points and seven rebounds, and a career-high five minutes for Dominique Rutledge (zero points, three rebounds).

In all, nine different players logged double-digit minutes, or more players than were on scholarship by last season’s end.

That’s what you’d expect against a team like Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, but as Kilicli pointed out, they weren’t dispersed the way you would have thought.

Three reserves – Aaron Brown, Gary Browne, and Pat Forsythe – each played 10 minutes or more in the first half, while only two starters were able to make that claim in Truck Bryant and Jabarie Hinds.

Bryant finished with 14 points and five assists. Hinds had six points and four assists.

“I’m a big believer you get what you earn,” Huggins said. “Generally speaking the guys that come in and work at it and do the right things play better than the guys that don’t.”

Chris Hawkins-Mast led the Islanders with 22 points. Terence Jones added 20.