PoG: WVU - Robert Morris
Deniz Kilicli
Deniz Kilicli
Staff Writer
Posted Dec 7, 2010


It's not been the easiest of adaptations for Deniz Kilicli. The sophomore forward was an instant spark of energy off the bench as a freshman, bringing a unique skill-set and an ability to score in the block. Until Tuesday night, those positive attributes were rarely visible to WVU fans this season.

PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Deniz Kilicli.

Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins has said Kilicli has been thinking too much about his new responsibilities thus far in 2010-11.

Essentially just a scorer a year ago, Huggins has tried to transform the Istanbul, Turkey, native into a complete player who can also defend and rebound in the low block.

It's been a process that has led to a bit of regression in Kilicli's game at times, but on Tuesday night against Robert Morris, the sophomore showed flashes of what had fans so excited every time he came into a game a year ago.

He scored a career-high 14 points, 12 of which came in a game-deciding second half surge. Kilicli was efficient from the field (6-of-8) and showed nice touch on his signature hook shot, while still trying to follow through on Huggins' mandate to be more aggressive in following his own shots.

"He’s actually lately missed a shot and got his own rebound, which is a first," the fourth-year head coach said dryly. "I think that’s the first time he’s ever done that."

There's still work to do in that department, as evidenced by the fact that the sophomore had only three rebounds in his 14 minutes of action. He's also got to work on recognizing when teams will bring a smaller second defender to him on the catch, as RMU did in the first half, easily stealing the ball from the forward's possession.

But all in all, Tuesday's performance -- which Kilicli said was motivated by anger as much as anything else -- was a step in the right direction.

Huggins needs his post players to do something in games to help alleviate the pressure on the guards and forwards (hence why Dan Jennings got his first career start Tuesday), and progress from Kilicli would go a long way towards helping Huggins find an answer in the low block.

NET BURNERS:

  • John Flowers.

    For the second-straight game, the forward from Waldorf, Md., played hurt. That just wasn't enough to slow down the senior forward.

    Flowers went to the floor early and stayed there for a good while before getting up and walking off the floor gingerly. He clutched at his right hip, the same area he grabbed in apparent pain during his team's win over American last week.



    John Flowers
    And while Flowers was one of the five players who Huggins subbed out at the start of the second half, he made a contribution when he came back in.

    Quietly, the forward poured in 12 points and 10 rebounds. He added two assists and two blocks, went a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and notably did not commit a single foul after struggling with issues in that area early this season.

    It's the kind of performance the Mountaineers will need from Flowers when the opposition gets tougher.

    Every bit of offense the forward can get will make things easier on the team's guards and conventional post players, and as one of the lankiest and most active players on the roster, he should be one of Huggins' better rebounders.

  • Bob Huggins and his wholesale substitution.

    Most who watched Huggins angrily motion to his bench and call for five new players to take the floor for WVU assumed it was merely a motivational move and not a tactical change.

    They would be wrong.

    "You’re going to be shocked, but it honestly has worked for me every time," the fourth-year head coach said. "Honestly, it has."

    And who is anyone else to doubt him? The unconventional line-up of Kilicli, Joe Mazzulla, Dalton Pepper, Cam Thoroughman and Jonnie West worked to perfection, kick-starting a Mountaineer team that had been lethargic for the first 20:24 of the contest.

    Somehow, that group keyed a 23-4 run in the first minutes of the second half that ended up being a 50-18 run to close the contest. What was a 32-31 lead for West Virginia when Huggins called timeout became an 82-49 laugher by game's end.

    You don't win as many games as Huggins has without getting an idea of what button to push at what times. Clearly, the head coach had his finger on the pulse of this team. His change truly changed the course of Tuesday night's game for good.

  • Winning the battle on the glass.

    Known for his teams' prowess at rebounding, Huggins couldn't have been pleased with the results from the first few games of the 2010-11 campaign.

    Against opponents who lack the physicality of the average Big East Conference team, the Mountaineers were narrowly winning the rebounding battle in most games. And while WVU was up 20-14 in total rebounds at halftime of Tuesday night's game, it still wasn't dominating the way it used to.

    Surprisingly, that changed in a big way in the second half with a line-up that hardly seemed suited to pounding the post. Huggins had often spoken of Kilicli's struggles to rebound the ball, and players like Jonnie West aren't exactly known to grab plenty of boards either.

    But the team's ability to thrash RMU on the glass in the second half truly turned the tide. The rebounding battle went 28-11 in West Virginia's favor in the final 20 minutes, a big key to the hosts' 50-21 scoring margin in the second half.

    WVU had 44 points in the paint to the Colonials' eight. It had 18 second-chance points to the visitors' three.

    That, as much as anything, was why a close game turned into a laugher in extraordinarily quick fashion at the Coliseum Tuesday night.



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