“You can’t beat everybody by 30,” Kilicli said.
Apparently, the Scarlet Knights are the exception. The Mountaineers followed the same script as their Jan. 4 win at Rutgers, forcing early turnovers and making shots from all over the floor to build a 26-point lead by halftime of what was ultimately an 84-60 win at the Coliseum.
Like that victory, which was overshadowed at least a bit by the WVU football team’s blowout win in the Discover Orange Bowl on the same night, it started with defense. The Scarlet Knights were 0-for-9 from the perimeter and had already committed 11 turnovers by halftime.
Ultimately, West Virginia (13-5, 4-2) forced 19 turnovers and had a 23-14 edge in points off turnovers.
“We were good defensively,” coach Bob Huggins said. “A lot of this is just frame of mind. We were awful yesterday [in practice]. I absolutely wore them out. Today, we came in realizing that it wasn’t that we were smarter. It wasn’t that we were more knowledgable. We just had energy, some determination and the right frame of mind.”
It also didn’t hurt that Truck Bryant, alternately brilliant and awful in recent games, was again strong in the earliest minutes. He had 15 points in the game’s first 12 minutes, including a trio of 3-pointers, to help his team build a 20-point lead relatively early on.
Player of the Game
This game, like the first meeting on Rutgers’ home court, was over in quick fashion. RU’s second-year head coach, Mike Rice, picked up a technical foul and used three of his five timeouts in the first 10:10 of action.
It didn’t matter. Just about everyone in the West Virginia’s black jerseys got in the act.
Keaton Miles, who had been in a season-long offensive funk despite starting every game, had a career-high six points by halftime on 3 of 4 shooting from the field. Miles added seven assists, another career-high and the most any Mountaineer player has managed in a game this season.
Jabarie Hinds, who has struggled to score since the season’s first games, drilled a 3-pointer just before halftime to give his team a 48-20 lead. Like Bryant, he finished with three trifectas to tally 11 points on a relatively efficient 4 of 9 performance from the field.
A Kevin Jones baseline jumper with 4:32 left in the half gave WVU a 39-18 advantage. The 39 points, which the Mountaineers scored in 15:28 of action, equaled the total Pittsburgh managed in a loss to Rutgers on Wednesday at the Petersen Events Center.
“We made some shots,” Huggins said of his team, which was 46.6 percent from the field, including a 56.7 percent mark at halftime. “That helps.”
The Scarlet Knights (10-8, 2-3) rallied back within 16 near they midpoint of the second half, but would get no closer. The advantage was pushed back to 30 points by the time Huggins finally sent Jones -- who somehow quietly registered 24 points and 14 rebounds, if such a thing is possible -- to the bench for good.
Bryant did the vast majority of his scoring in the first half, finishing with 18 points. But by then, the damage had been done.
“Kevin Jones and Truck were men against boys for the second time,” Rice said. The duo of WVU seniors combined for 43 points in the Jan. 4 game between these teams and finished with 44 on Saturday.
West Virginia finished with assists on 22 of its 27 made baskets. It committed only five turnovers in the first half and 13 overall.
“That’s when we’re at our best: when we pass the ball,” Jones said. “When we don’t pass it and we’re selfish, it always backfires.”
For Rutgers, Mack Myles came off the bench to score a team-high 15 points. Dane Miller added 12 to go with 13 rebounds. The four starters for the Scarlet Knights other than Miller combined to score only 16 points.
“I give them tremendous credit,” Rice said of WVU. “They are just tougher than us.”
The Mountaineers will take one last trip out of Big East play when they travel to Charleston to face Marshall at the Civic Center on Wednesday night.