PoG: WVU - Cleveland State

John Flowers

It may have been the closest race in this writer's tenure of producing these psuedo-columns in the wake of essentially every WVU football and men's basketball game -- the very definition of a split decision, as our two selectors had a difference of opinion. But in this case, age won out over beauty.

PLAYER OF THE GAME:

John Flowers.

The choice of BlueGoldNews.com publisher Kevin Kinder, there was certainly a case to be made for the senior forward.

Flowers quietly put together a double-double, scoring 10 points and adding 11 rebounds. While he still wasn't much of a long-range shooter, missing all three of his 3-point attempts, he was an efficient four of six from inside the arc.

Again, he was a force defensively. He was credited with three blocks, but it felt like the Waldorf, Md., native had more, swatting away several shots Cleveland State players put up around the goal.

Our top honors went to Flowers in part because of the work he put in in WVU's win over Duquesne last Sunday night, when he just was edged out for our top honors by Cam Thoroughman (more on him in just a bit).

Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins is right -- Thoroughman and Flowers might be the two most consistent players on this year's team. Both have been constants on a team that has needed them.

Flowers is West Virginia's best on-ball defender and has been hawkish in pursuing rebounds. His ability to block and alter shots and find a way to score tough points is not to be discounted either.

NET BURNERS:

  • Cam Thoroughman.

    Our publisher may disagree, but my own personal choice for player of the game had a banner day against the Vikings, putting in what had to be the best all-around game of his WVU career.

    He registered career-highs in both scoring (nine points) and assists (seven). The other statistics weren't too shabby either -- six rebounds (including three offensive boards), two steals and, perhaps most surprisingly, only two fouls in 33 minutes of play.



    Cam Thoroughman

    It was an incredible outing for the fifth-year senior from Portsmouth, Ohio -- who has been one of the team's two most consistent performers this season according to his head coach.

    And like Jonnie West, who was going to focus solely on graduate school this fall before being convinced to rejoin the roster by Huggins, Thoroughman briefly considered not completing his eligibility and opting to work on his own master's degree.

    Given his solid play Saturday and and in last week's win over Duquesne, the question must be asked: where would this year's West Virginia team if Thoroughman had made that decision?

    "Cam's been great," Huggins said. "He came to me and said, ‘Do you want me to come back?' And I said, ‘Absolutely.' He'd already graduated and he's in grad school. I knew he'd give us minutes, but I didn't think he'd give us this many minutes. But I knew he'd give us good minutes."

    Few other observers thought the forward would give minutes this good though.

  • Kevin Jones.

    The junior forward just may have had his long-awaited breakout performance after what has been a less than stellar start to the season.

    It's not that the numbers were that much better than normal for the Mount Vernon, N.Y., native. He had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds -- statistics that aren't all that different from what he's done in previous games.

    But Jones finally had an impact when his team needed it -- something most observers just assumed would happen this year with stars like Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks gone to the professional ranks.

    When CSU guard Norris Cole tied things up at 55-55 on a 3-pointer with 8:30 to play, it was Jones who put an end to what had been a big Vikings run.

    He made a crucial 3-pointer with 6:45 left to make it 61-55. A minute later, he grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a put-back, his bread-and-butter from a season ago, while being fouled. Jones also made the bonus free throw.

    The junior added another trifecta with 2:45 to play, making it 70-58 and putting any thoughts of a late Cleveland State comeback to rest.

    Notably, he played with some emotion, pounding his chest in celebration and punctuating the "and one" basket with a primal yell.

    That sort of passion has been missing from the Mountaineers at times this season, and if Jones is truly back to his old form, he may be just the man to provide that missing ingredient.

  • WVU's ability to deal with pressure.

    In a near-upset last season at CSU's Wolstein Center, the Mountaineers built a 17-point lead before watching it erode away thanks in large part to the full-court pressure defense Coach Gary Waters and the Vikings used to great effect.

    It appeared as though Huggins and company had studied up on the game film from last December's win over Cleveland State, as the pressure was essentially a non-issue on Saturday night.

    In textbook fashion, the Mountaineers broke the press every time it was employed. They spaced the floor well in the backcourt, while frontcourt players like Thoroughman got to the proper spots to make themselves available to receive up-court passes from the guards.

    As a result, a WVU team that had been turning the ball over about 13 times a game coming into Saturday's contest gave away only 10 possessions -- even against a team employing that pressure defense.

    That was a big reason the Vikings didn't get easy baskets they did last year, which went a long way towards allowing West Virginia to pull away late for the win.

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