The Mountaineers easily dispatched the American University Eagles in a game that was fairly entertaining, despite not being that competitive.
First off, it was great to be back in the Coliseum. I can't say enough good things about the experience the team gets playing in early season tournaments like the trip to Puerto Rico, but it's a drag going two weeks without a home game. That said, the rest of Morgantown didn't seem so excited, and the game drew a sleepy crowd of just over seven thousand. Those who did make the trip were treated to a game where we found out that Casey Mitchell's scoring is going to be a theme, there's a battle for minutes at forward, and Huggins can actually look relaxed on the sidelines from time to time.
Mitchell led the Mountaineers with 27 points and it's becoming obvious that his role on this team is to be the go-to scorer. What's amazing about Mitchell's point total this evening was that he only hit one three. The other 24 points came inside (and at the free throw line, where he continues to excel) and showed the continued development of Mitchell's ability to create for himself. American defenders chose to guard Mitchell very tight on the perimeter and he responded by showing that he would take any shot he was given, relying primarily on his mid-range game. After a tumultuous year and a half, it appears Casey Mitchell has finally arrived as a consistent force on the basketball court.
In the battle for minutes at back-up forward, Kevin Noreen and Danny Jennings got to audition for one half each. In the first half, Jennings saw seven minutes of action, turning in three offensive rebounds and an arena-shaking dunk where he practically tore the rim from the board. In the second half, it was the freshman, Noreen, who made the biggest impact. Admittedly, he got to do it in garbage time, but that kid displays hustle and grit every time he hits the court. Noreen finished with four points, four boards, and three fouls. If he can do that in nine minutes or less every game this season, he'll make an impact for this team.
Other random observations:
- Huggins looked more relaxed during this game than I've ever seen him.
- The Turk showed moments of greatness, including a big block and a deft shooting touch. Unfortunately, he also displayed some terrible decision making, including jacking up a contested three. The only player who really drew Huggs' ire tonight was Kilicli, and that doesn't look to change any time soon.
- John Flowers left the game with what appeared to be some form of hip injury as he took a hard knee or elbow in the lane. Huggins was in rare form on the radio after the game pointing out that the same injury would have ended Truck's season. A droll jab at his oft-injured point guard.
- Despite good play from Truck and Joe Mazzulla, the two prettiest passes of the game came courtesy of Cam Thoroughman. First, Cam threaded the needle from the top of the key to create an easy bucket for Kevin Jones. Later in the half he hit a curling Kevin Noreen for an easy two. Cam's role may be to be an enforcer, but the kid can pass too.
- Kevin Jones shot fifty percent from the field, which is a good sign. Take away his dismal three point shooting tonight (1-5), and he improves to shoot over sixty percent from the field. He seems to be finding his touch again on the inside and mid-range shots. I expect him to be a dominant presence come January.
- Casey Mitchell has already eclipsed his point total from last season. This is game six. Wow.