Kevin Jones, who is still struggling at times to find his niche on the 2010-11 edition of the Mountaineers, went to his inside game to help WVU to its fourth win of the season. Jones was 10-22 from the field, with nine of his makes coming from close range.
Faced with a VMI team that defended aggressively and hit nine 3-pointers, Jones responded with some strong inside moves that the shorter Keydets simply couldn't handle. Only a handful of missed shots, including one dunk attempt that caromed off the back of the rim, kept him from a 30-point night.
Jones was also one of the few Mountaineers who did not incur the wrath of head coach Bob Huggins for lackadaisical defensive effort or offensive execution at some point during the game. He played 36 minutes, coming out only for brief rests. He grabbed six rebounds and had three assists while hitting one of his three 3-point attempts.
West Virginia was clearly hampered by the absence of Truck Bryant and Dan Jennings, both of whom were not allowed to dress for the game. Head coach Bob Huggins said that he was displeased with their effort and play during practice earlier in the week, and thus neither was permitted to play.
Joe Mazzulla, starting in Bryant's place, got two quick fouls and played just four minutes in the opening half, further exacerbating the problems on the offensive end. Jonnie West, Dalton Pepper and walk-on Kenny Ross took over duties in starting the offense, and although Huggins emphasized that West Virginia's players are interchangeable in many roles, there was no doubt that the Mountaineer attack was disjointed at times.
Guard Casey Mitchell continued to light up the nets, but in this game many of his points came from inside the arc. Mitchell scored 25 points, but just six of those came on three-pointers. Recognizing the fact that VMI was crowding him on the perimeter, he cut and curled off screens, then drove the ball aggressively to the basket, scoring on several lay-ups.
Mitchell's progress as a Mountaineer was again hailed by Huggins, who compared his effort to that which he found lacking from Bryant and Jennings.
"Casey made himself a player because he's doing what we asked him to do. I'm going to play the guys who listen and work hard and do what we ask them to do."
For the second time in his brief career, Kevin Noreen came off the bench to give the Mountaineers a spark. With Jennings absent and center Deniz Kilicli struggling on both ends of the floor, Noreen stepped in to score seven points and grab five rebounds in 14 minutes of action. While he's not a go-to offensive threat just yet, Noreen has exhibited excellent basketball smarts in his last two games. Although he admits that he's not totally confident in everything West Virginia runs just yet, he has hustled, gotten to the ball on the boards and pleased the coaching staff with his willingness to listen and learn.
Noreen was especially effective when WVU went to a high post offense late in the first half.
"That's the same sort of offense we ran in high school," he said afterward.
Out of that set, Noreen dished a pair of assists from the high post, and flashed to the basket to receive a pass from the baseline for an easy lay-up. He also had three assists as he showed his ability for the second consecutive game, against two very different opponents.
"Where would we be without Casey Mitchell and Kevin Noreen this year?" Huggins asked the media after the game. Thee answer? Certainly not at 4-1.