PoG: WVU - Louisville

Kevin Jones

It could be argued that Louisville senior Preston Knowles gave West Virginia a win with his inexplicable decision to foul Truck Bryant with 0.6 seconds left in a tied game. But the only reason Knowles had a chance to give the Mountaineers that Senior Day gift was because of the efforts of one of the team's juniors.

PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Kevin Jones.

In this space, I've often joked about how Jones continues to register double-doubles and continues to draw yawns while doing so.

That's the mark of a good player -- when he can ply his trade well and still do so in a way that stays relatively under the radar.

There was nothing subtle about his performance on Saturday, though. It was the loudest double-double of his career by far, featuring new personal bests in scoring (25 points) and rebounds (16).

The Mount Vernon, N.Y., native had his typical double-double by halftime of this one. He had 15 points and 12 boards by the intermission and sent this scribe scrambling to find the most recent 20-point, 20-rebound game in program history.

In case you were curious, that last happened when Mo Robinson pulled off the feat in a 1977 game against City College of New York.

Jones didn't quite reach those numbers, but he wasn't far from them either. He was efficient offensively for almost the entire game and was a monster on the glass.

It was, in short, a performance fans expected from Jones at the start of the season. And if it continues, the Mountaineers might just have a chance to make some serious postseason noise yet again this year.

NET BURNERS:

  • Casey Mitchell.

    Shooters, sometimes, just have to keep on shooting.

    Heading into the final 30 seconds of the game, Mitchell was nowhere near consideration for who would end up on our list of honorees. But that's the funny thing about basketball: sometimes, a perfect last 30 seconds can erase the memory of the rough 19:30 that came before.



    Casey Mitchell
    Mitchell was 1-of-6 from the field entering the home stretch. But when it mattered most, he was 2-of-2, hitting a pair of 3-pointers to first bring his team back within two points and then tie the game with 8.1 seconds to go.

    The senior shooting guard has packed a career's worth of ups and downs into his two years as a Mountaineer.

    For a while, it looked like his Senior Day would be a nightmarish outing not unlike former guard Alex Ruoff's final home game, which came against Louisville two years ago.

    But instead, it will be remembered as the high point of Mitchell's college playing career. As much as Jones (or even the Cards' Preston Knowles), he was the hero of this win for West Virginia.

  • Preston Knowles.

    We have to give him some credit. It was a series of plays that were atypical of a senior that allowed West Virginia the win on Saturday.

    It just wasn't his day. That much should have been obvious from his 5-of-16 shooting effort.

    But he really cemented his hero status in Morgantown by shooting an off-balance, running 3-pointer with the game tied and plenty of time to have attacked the basket for a better shot.

    Predictably, it drew iron and fell harmlessly away from the goal. But nobody could have predicted that Knowles would have sprinted 15 feet towards his team's bench to foul Truck Bryant just after the miss.

    It was a decision that defied all logic. It was an inexcusable mistake for a freshman -- in high school. And instead, a college senior did it in his final regular season game.

    The 15,032 fans in attendance at the Coliseum will just have to thank him for his generosity. Because regardless of what U of L director of basketball operations Ralph Willard said about rebounding determining the outcome (we'll get to all that in a moment), it was Knowles' bone-headed play that gave West Virginia a win.

  • Rebounding dominance.

    Coming into Saturday's game, WVU had only registered 25 offensive rebounds in a game three times since 1998.

    Make that four times after the Mountaineers made Louisville look absolutely hopeless on the glass, pounding the Cards into submission.

    U of L had only 25 total rebounds. Again, the Mountaineers had that many on the offensive boards.

    That led directly to West Virginia's 22-4 edge in second-chance points, which was the biggest reason WVU was able to lead for much of the contest.

    Indeed, when you play the No. 11 team in the country and shoot only 33.9 percent from the field, allow your opposition to shoot 41.7 percent and you still find a way to win, you know you've found a way to earn plenty of extra opportunities.

    So even if Pitino was too angry or meek to face the media (the second-straight year he has pulled the stunt of sending an assistant out to handle interviews at the Coliseum) afterward, Willard certainly knew the right thing to say to deflect blame from Knowles.

    West Virginia shot the ball 62 times to the visitors' 48. It made 21 shots to the Cardinals' 21. So yes, the rebounds -- and the extra possessions that resulted -- mattered.

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