Instead, it was an indefinable "something" that gave Mazzulla the aura of the best player on the floor as WVU recorded its third league road win of the year. The fifth-year senior controlled the ball for long stretches of the second half, and when it was in his hands, good things usually happened for the Mountaineers.
After seeing its six-point halftime lead evaporate at the start of the second half, Mazzulla put the team on his back. He made three of his next four free throws to restore WVU's lead, then dished out to assists for three pointers around another pair of foul shots to give West Virginia its largest lead of the game at 50-42 with 8:52 to play. In doing so, Mazzulla displayed his ordinary grit and determination, but there seemed to be something extra this time. He was more vocal down the stretch, getting his teammates into the right positions and takign the load of the offense (with the blessing of head coach Bob Huggins, on his shoulders.
Of course, Mazzulla's stat line can't be ignored either. In addition to those mentioned earlier, he drained 10 of his 12 free throw attempts and had two steals in a draining 37 minutes of action.
It seems as if every time John Flowers has a really good game, someone else has one that's just a bit better, or stands out a bit more. As a result, Flowers has finished second in our player of the game picks more often than Susan Lucci at the Daytime Emmys.
There shouldn't be any shame in that, however. As long as he continues to turn in performances such as the one he recorded on Saturday night, he'll make his coaches and the fans happy. Flowers had 16 points and eight rebounds, and made all five of his free throws to help push West Virginia to a 24-30 performance from the line. He also added to his league-leading block total with four rejections, and didn't come out for a rest, playing all 40 minutes of the game.
With WVU's bench dangerously short, it is imperative that Flowers keep himself out of foul trouble and on the floor, and that, as much as anything, contributed to his scoring and rebounding totals. When Flowers can play as much as he did against the Bearcats, he's going to be a consistent double-double threat.
The combination of Deniz Kilicli and Cam Thoroughman proved a more than equal match for UC's inside game. In fact, West Virginia's tag team outperformed the Bearcat tandem of Yancy Gates and Ibrahima Thomas and helped the Mountaineers negate what figured to be a big advantage in the paint.
In the early going, Gates scored six quick points and appeared to be a defensive handful for West Virginia. However, the Mountaineers quickly adjusted, covering the passing lanes and denying entry into the UC big men. Thomas and Gates ended up combining for just nine points and ten rebounds. Add in forward Rashad Bishop, who was locked down for much of the game by Flowers, and the Bearcats got just 12 points from its starting forwards.
Meanwhile, Kilicli and Thoroughman fashioned scoring outbursts to offset UC's points. The Turk hit three consecutive shots (jump hooks from either side of the lane and a mid-range step back jumper) to erase an early 10-7 deficit, and Thoroughman scored both of his buckets to close out the first half and give the Mountaineers a six-point advantage at the break. Add in the pair's ten rebounds and three assists, and they clearly outplayed their foes inside.
"We did it for Huggs."
That was the sentiment of Mazzulla and several other Mountaineers, who were clearly bent on getting their coach a win in his former domain. Huggins lost in his first return to Fifth Third Arena, and the Mountaineers hadn't exactly burned up the court for Huggins when he faced his former team. West Virginia was just 2-2 against the Bearcats under Huggins, with one of those wins coming on Da'Sean Butler's 3-pointer int he Big East tournament last March.
Did the desire to win one for their coach play a part? It's hard to measure such motivation, but based on post-game comments, those thoughts were in the minds of more than a few Mountaineers.
What they might not have known was that West Virginia has never had much road success against UC. WVU's last win in the Queen City came way back in 1941, when the Mountaineers took home a 47-43 win on the strength of Rudy Baric's 14 points.