Scoring punch, hot shooting and increased rebounding at some positions were all factors in West Virginia's win over Oakland, but senior guard Joe Mazzulla's across the board play earned the nod for player of the game honors.
Coming off the bench, Mazzulla hit five of his six shots from the field, nailed the same number form the free thrown line, and dished out seven assists against no turnovers in 21 minutes of play. He also snared five defensive rebounds and had two steals to complement his 15 points.
Beyond the numbers, Mazzulla was a steadying influence when West Virginia went through rough stretches on offense. After scoring just two points in the first three minutes of the second half, Mazzulla entered the game and helped WVU push its lead back up to 20 points. Although the Mountaineers didn't play nearly as well in the second half as it did in the first, Mazzulla helped the offense run more smoothly and sparked a transition game that allowed the Mountaineers to top the 90 point mark.
John Flowers could just as easily have been selected as the game's outstanding player. The starting small forward scored 16 points and snared five rebounds, and continued to set the emotional tone for the team. WVU's best defender, Flowers swatted away seven shots and added a steal to his excellent stat line.
Flowers' improvement has also extended to the free throw line. The Waldorf, Mary., native hit six of his nine attempts, and all of them were good looking shots that had every chance to go in. With Flowers serving as a counterpart and credible offensive weapon across from Kevin Jones, West Virginia could have the increased offensive capability that head coach Bob Huggins has been looking for.
Huggins has a number of one-liners that he uses to prod his players to rebound, including gems such as "You have one more rebound that a dead man" and "If you got one rebound, you might like it and get another." Those motivators were taken to heard by Deniz Kilicli and Dan Jennings, who each got to the boards and battled hard. Kilicli finished with 10 rebounds (forming half of a double-double with 12 points), while Jennings snared three, including two on the offensive glass.
More important than the numbers, the duo worked hard to get to the glass, and competed hard for the basketball when it came off the iron. If they can continue that work and convert one or two of those offensive chances each game, West Virginia will again be in the upper echelon of the nation in terms of second chance points.
Overall, WVU's rebounding wasn't great, as Oakland grabbed 20 offensive boards and forged a 38-38 tie on the glass. The progress of a couple of WVU's inside players, however, bodes well for the season.
Huggins' search for offense was rewarded by a balanced scoring effort, which was the key to West Virginia's 24-point lead at the break. The Mountaineers shot a sizzling 64% from 3-point range in the opening half (9-14) and shot a smoking 67% from the field overall.
With six players in double figures, West Virginia's balanced scoring effort is just what it will need in order to topple some of the heavyweights it will face later in the season.