The Mountaineers’ veteran head coach picked a good time to argue with an official.
“I don’t know if he was trying to be deliberate or if he was just being Huggs, but I mean, that’s his first one of the year,” senior Kevin Jones said. “It might have been a motivational tool, but it definitely helped us. It got our motivation swinging, and it helped us play better, definitely.”
WVU (4-1) was lucky to be up 24-18 late in the first half despite playing poor defense, a sign of just how little energy was inside the arena and on the floor.
That changed almost as soon as Huggins picked up his technical foul. Tommie McCune missed the front end of a 1-and-1 situation, but Pat Forsythe tipped it.
Then Jabarie Hinds decided it was time to steal the show.
He took the ball from Akron’s Adedeji Ibitayo in the backcourt and scored a fast-break layup. After a defensive stop, Hinds took the ball with the shot clock winding down. The freshman drove into the lane with a ridiculous crossover move, spun around another defender and had to be fouled by the Zips’ Zeke Marshall to avoid what would have been an easy layup.
Hinds scored another quick layup after a steal by fellow freshman Gary Browne. Hinds got another steal of his own, then nailed a 3-pointer.
Player of the Game
“You know, I just did everything simple,” said Hinds, who scored 15 of his career-high 19 points in the opening 20 minutes. “I took whatever they gave me, basically. It was a good first half.”
Frustration began to build for Akron. Forward Nikola Cvetinovic was called for his third foul, then picked up a technical on his way to the bench while arguing the call for his fourth. Only seconds later, Zips coach Keith Dambrot picked up a technical of his own for continuing to protest.
“It was a tough technical on our kid, and I wasn’t too happy about it,” Dambrot said.
Truck Bryant hit three of the four ensuing free throws, and Hinds scored on a jump shot with an impressive step-back move. He added another layup, then dished the ball to Kevin Jones for an easy layup just before the half ended.
It was a whirlwind of impressive plays, mostly from Hinds and other freshmen. What was a mere six point lead when Huggins was called for his technical at the 4:32 mark was a 43-20 whitewash by halftime.
“They held it down, brought the lead up and really made it easy for the rest of us,” said Bryant, who was on the bench as a result of foul trouble when the run occurred. “As soon as the lead is that high, it feels like nothing can go wrong.”
Akron (3-3) would not get within any fewer than 16, and the Mountaineers built a lead of as many as 28 in the second half of a surprisingly easy win. After all, the Zips were among the preseason favorites to win the Mid-American Conference and started strong with an upset win over a highly-regarded Mississippi State team.
“We thought we could get in and pressure a little bit and take them out of what they wanted to do,” Huggins said. “A lot of that ends up being a cumulative effect. You just wear on them and wear on them.”
It showed, as the Zips, who came in shooting 43 percent from 3-point range, hit only two of their 13 tries from beyond the arc on Monday (15.4 percent). Akron also turned the ball over 20 times against only seven assists.
It was Hinds who was West Virginia’s surprising leader. He had a clean stat sheet, with four assists, five steals and four rebounds -- and no turnovers -- to go with his 19 points. Jones had another double-double, with 18 points and 12 boards.
Akron’s two stars on the front line -- Cvetinovic and Zeke Marshall -- both battled foul trouble. Marshall, a 7-foot center and the school’s all-time leading shot blocker, only played 19 minutes and didn’t register a block.
Nick Harney came off the bench to lead the Zips with 12 points and eight boards. Marshall added 10 points despite his foul trouble. They were the only Akron players in double figures.