Casey Mitchell has become West Virginia's most consistent scoring threat in the early part of the season, and the senior filled that role again in WVU's 74-70 loss to Minnesota. Mitchell hit his first seven shots en route to 18 first half points and finished with 27. No other Mountaineer scored in double figures.
Mitchell was 10-20 from the field, including a 4-9 mark from 3-point range, and made all three of his free throws. He also had two rebounds, an assist and a steal in 35 minutes of action.
Scoring 16 of WVU's first 20 points, the junior college transfer staked WVU to an early lead. He also scored four points in the late stages of the contest to help keep West Virginia in striking distance down the stretch.
True freshman Kevin Noreen came off the bench to help spark West Virginia's front court play with a determined effort against the big Minnesota front line. Noreen, who was definitely on the short end of the strength scale in the game, nevertheless scored four points and grabbed two rebounds in just six minutes of action.
Noreen battled hard when inserted into the game, and his presence and energetic play seemed to spark the Mountaineers, who had fallen behind by eight points and were in danger of being engulfed by the inside play of Minnesota's front court. Although he committed three fouls in his time on the floor, his energy gave WVU a lift when it needed it the most.
West Virginia's free throw shooting was jsut this side of abysmal, and the missed chances at the free throw line proved to be one of the keys to the game. Minnesota canned 26 of its 35 chances from the line for a success rate of 74%, while the Mountaineers cashed on just 12 of its 23 tires (52%). The 11 points WVU left at the line loomed large in the game.
WVU fot off to a bad start at the line, making just one of five in the opening half, and that malaise seemed to carry over into the second period. Mitchell (3-3) and Jonnie West (2-2) were the only players to go unblemished at the line.
The absence of Kevin Jones for more than half of the contest worked against the Mountaineers in a number of ways. Jones played just 18 minutes in the contest, and he attempted just six shots of the floor. With five of those coming from beyond the arc, Jones provided no support for West Virginia's inside game, which was only minimally productive. Jones, Kilicli, John flowers and Danny Jennings combined for just a 7-21 shooting mark from the field.
Jones inability to stay out of foul trouble loomed larger for a Mountaineer team trying to forge a comeback. After scoring five points in the early going of the second half, he made another lengthy trip to the bench after picking up his fourth foul.
In order to West Virginia to be at its best, Jones has to be on the floor, not holding down a student assistant coaching spot on the bench. He finished the game with nine points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. Push those out to his normal 32 minutes of action, and it might have been enough to spell the difference in the game.