PoG: WVU - DePaul

Joe Mazzulla

At the end of a game where so many Mountaineers had solid offensive performances, it wasn't easy to decide who would get our top honors. But the man who set the tone by attacking the rim for the first two scores of the game and distributed the ball well all evening long earned the nod.

PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Joe Mazzulla.

WVU just seems to play its best basketball when the senior point guard is able to attack the basket and score a few layups.

It took Mazzulla exactly one minute of play Saturday to score four points, all on layups. That seemed to set the tone for the evening.

This was another efficient performance from the point guard, who ended up with 12 points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field (and, notably, a 6-of-6 outing from the foul line). He added six assists and six rebounds in 31 minutes of play.

More importantly, he kept the Mountaineers under control. His presence in the starting lineup alongside Truck Bryant (largely the result of attrition on the team roster) seems to allow Bryant, who has struggled at times, to play within himself a bit more (Bryant notably also had six assists and 11 points against DePaul).

Mazzulla did so many little things well. His passes were crisp in the half-court offense. He stayed composed and helped his team break the Blue Demons' full-court pressure defense.

The senior got the Mountaineers rolling, and they didn't stop until they had coasted to a relatively easy double-digit win. Regardless of the caliber of opponent, that's never anything to sneer at in the always-tough Big East Conference.

NET BURNERS:

  • John Flowers.

    It had to be a bit of a relief for Bob Huggins to see Flowers knock down a few shots and get back to being an offensive threat after a poor outing for the senior forward on Monday night against Pitt.

    Flowers was largely a non-factor against the Panthers. He took only four shots and made only one of them, scoring a mere five points.



    John Flowers
    But the man who has become West Virginia's most consistent player was back to his old habits Saturday, scoring a game-high 15 points and blocking three shots.

    In what had to be a welcome sight, especially considering the fact the Mountaineers will be facing Syracuse's trademark 2-3 zone on Monday, Flowers promptly brought DePaul out of its zone after only one possession of the defense in the second half.

    He knocked down an open 3-pointer, and Oliver Purnell decided to scrap the defense in short order.

    And on a day in which WVU's defense wasn't up to its typically high standards, Flowers still did his job, locking down opponents all evening long. Huggins will need that pattern to continue against the Orange.

  • Balance and ball movement.

    Teams have had a relatively easy time defending West Virginia for most of this season, as the Mountaineers' low scoring totals -- the team had failed to score 60 points in four of its last six games -- would indicate.

    For much of that recent stretch of futility, WVU players had been quick to settle for jump shots -- shots they just weren't making.

    On Saturday, whether it was the result of poor defense from DePaul or a renewed emphasis on attacking the rim, West Virginia finally got some easy baskets.

    Its first 10 points were all scored on layups and other shots around the goal. It scored 40 points in the paint to the Blue Demons' 24.

    It helps when so many players are making things happen. Five Mountaineers were in double figures, the first time that has happened since a win earlier this season over Providence. In no other Big East Conference game has WVU so much has managed to get four players to score 10 or more points.

    But that balance is the by-product of good ball movement, something West Virginia hasn't done well at times this season. While the hosts did end up with 11 turnovers, they also assisted on 23 of their 28 field goals.

    Those signs surely must be encouraging for Huggins heading down the stretch, as the head coach acknowledged his team had passed better on Saturday than it had most of the season.

    But John Flowers was quick to temper that enthusiasm, saying DePaul wasn't exactly a great defensive team. Only time will tell if this was a sign of things to come or just an anomaly.

  • Poor second half defense.

    There's a disturbing trend developing for the Mountaineers -- one Huggins would do well to find a way to stop as quickly as possible.

    DePaul shot 62.5 percent from the field (15-of-24) in the second half of Saturday's game, nearly allowing the Blue Demons to come back from another double-digit deficit, as they did in the teams' first meeting in January before falling 67-65.

    But that lofty shooting percentage in the final 20 minutes is hardly an anomaly. Indeed, West Virginia's last three opponents have all shot better than 60 percent from the field in the second half.

    That's a big reason why Villanova beat the Mountaineers so easily and a bigger reason why Pitt was able to keep WVU at bay down the stretch on Monday night.

    Whether it's a letdown in intensity or just bad luck, something must be done to ensure West Virginia plays quality defense for 40 minutes down the stretch.

    Huggins agrees.

    "We have to start guarding again," he said, bemused, Saturday. "We didn't guard that well."

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