Cleveland State Vs. West Virginia: Thoroughman, Jones Lead Mountaineers To 74-63 Victory

The West Virginia Mountaineers and Cleveland State Vikings square off at the WVU Coliseum in a game which features two team who expect to be returning to the NCAA Tournament in March.

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Cleveland State Vs. West Virginia: Thoroughman, Jones And Mitchell Do The Heavy Lifting

Well, that was a good win, against a good team.  Cleveland State is 20th in the RPI and had been previously undefeated going into this contest.  This will refect nicely on the Mountaineers in all forms of computer rankings later in the season.  Currently looking like a team on the bubble, that could be crucial later in the season.  The 74-63 score is a wider margin than most of the action.  Cleveland State hung tough behind the scoring of Norris Cole.  That kid, and his flat top, can flat out play.  With anybody.  Thankfully, the Mountaineers exploded on a ten point run midway through the second half and got this done.  The Mountaineers have an in-season exhibition against Walsh on Tueday, and then a week off over Christmas before opening Big East play against St. John's a week later.

What I took away from this afternoon's victory:

  • This team needs Kevin Jones and Casey Mitchell to score.  Without them, victories will be very hard to come by.  These two are the reason the Mountaineers won today, simply put.  From the seven to four minute mark in the second half Mitchell and Jones put ten straight points on the board, while the team clamped down on the other end.  Without this run, this game comes down to a last-shot type situation, and with the way Norris Cole was scoring, I don't like those odds.
  • Speaking of Cole, he is an electric player.  He is a powerful and assertive scorer from the guard position and it seemed like the Mountaineers had no idea what to do with him.  Neither straight up man, or match-up worked and at times it seemed like Cole could score at will.  Every great Mountaineer offensive possession seemed to be followed by an immediate quick score courtasy of Cole.  This does not bode well as the Mountaineers enter into conference play.  If a guy named Norris is doing this to you, what do you think a guy named Kemba will do?
  • The offense struggles to run at times.  Truck Bryant was almost immediately pulled from the game and struggled to get minutes the rest of the way, with Joe Mazzulla running the point.  Still, it didn't seem to matter much.  Cam Thoroughman had seven assists.  Think about that.  That shouldn't really happen.  Cam's a great passer and all, and he definitely makes the smart play every time.  However when your backup forward is the overwhelming leader in assists it represents a deficiency in the back court's play.  In general, the Mountaineers didn't cut hard today, and they rarely made it easy for the ball-handler to find the open man.  With Truck on the court, that just degenerates into no plays getting run and silly contested jump shots getting jacked up over and over.
  • Danny Jennings has disappeared.  He never got in the game at all, and the absence of his trademark headband made it seem like maybe he knew that going into thing.  Ironic, considering he graced the cover of the game program.  Deniz Kilicli is still a work in progress, and made two nice offensive moves, and more than a few defensive miscues.  The result is that Cam ends up playing 33 minutes, John Flowers plays 35 and Kevin Jones goes the distance. While the Mountaineers seem stacked at the forward position, nobody outside of those three has made a solid case for minutes.
  • It's good to see Kevin Jones get another double-double in the books, but his shot is still off.  Many of his interior baskets required two stabs at it and neither looked strong nor pretty.  He hit his threes when they counted and his spark propelled the Mountaineers to victory.  What's more encouraging is the attitude and energy he brought to the court during the second-half run.  It's been noticeably absent during the season so far.
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Cleveland State Vs. West Virginia: Mountaineers Face Quality Opponant At Home

Things have been crazy here in Morgantown all week.  Oh, you hadn't heard?  Well, that's all settled and done and while I have mixed feelings about it, it's been signed sealed and delivered and nothing more can be done about it.  You know what I hate writing about though?  Politics.  When a football team picks a coach, it's politics.  When the West Virginia Men's Basketball team faces Cleveland State in the Coliseum today at 2pm, we get back to what I like.... sports!

So far this season, the Mountaineers have been a total enigma.  Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli were expected to be dominant offensive forces, while both have been non-factors.  Casey Mitchell started the season looking like Pistol Pete Maravich, but reverted almost immediately back to looking like, well, Casey Mitchell.  Truck Bryant and Danny Jennings have showed flashes of brilliance, and also been missing men, no moreso than in their one-game suspension against VMI.  Cam Thoroughman has played his Cam Thoroughman role most of the season, but he even popped up as a starter who played a whopping 35 minutes the last time the Mountaineers took the court.  Quite literally, we are at a point in the season where I have no idea what to expect out of anybody in the old gold and blue.  That can be entertaining, but equally infuriating.

The problem is, despite being a so-called "mid-major," Cleveland State is a good basketball team.  It has size that other small schools lack, and they use it.  Currently undefeated, Cleveland State comes into this matchup having stacked up twelve wins in a row and looking for more.  This team, let by hot shooting guard Norris Cole, who averages over 21 points per game, won't come into the Coliseum and back down from anything.

The troubling thing right now is that the Mountaineers are incredibly beatable.  They haven't brought their "A Game" to any of this year's contests, but will need it today to dispatch the Vikings.  In each of the Mountaineers' seven victories, you can point to one or two players who shouldered a disproportionate amount of the load, while the rest of the team went through the motions.  We all know that kind of effort won't cut it in the Big East but it also won't get the team a victory this afternoon, either. 

I'm off to the Coliseum, but I'll be back after the game to offer more thoughts on the direction of this Mountaineer squad.  Hopefully we'll be talking about a team on its way up!

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