The Mountaineers got a game they needed to have tonight as their gang of seven continues to gel. Here's what stood out:
Turnovers are the difference maker. This team makes some of the most frustrating plays a basketball fan can suffer through. Oftentimes it seems as if passes are lazily shuffled to their recipient, often getting intercepted or kicked out of bounds in the process. Throughout the first half, the Mountaineers let the Bearcats hang around by literally handing them the basketball. The Mountaineers' second half surge was keyed primarily by simply holding onto the basketball. Amazing how that works.
Joe Mazzulla is this team's leader. As the season progresses, it seems obvious that Mazzulla is the leader of this squad. His relentless effort on both offense and defense is infectious. With 37 minutes played tonight, he controlled the offense for nearly the entire game. He dished out eight assists and generally pushed the envelope at all times, taking the ball inside regardless of whether he had a clear plan of action. His efforts created a dozen trips to the free throw line and he made the most of it, hitting ten. In a lot of ways, its seems amazing that Mazzulla has gone stretches this season without seeing more playing time. When (or possibly, if) Casey Mitchell returns, I doubt Huggs will go back to his old rotation. He just can't. The contribution Mazzulla is making to this team right now needs to be sustained for the season.
- John Flowers goes the distance. John Flowers did his best John Flowers impersonation for all forty minutes of tonight's action. In a lot of ways, Flowers is under appreciated because he does it every single night. Tonight he tallied 18 points, grabbed 8 boards and blocked 4 shots. Another day at work. He was a perfect 5 for 5 at the stripe which is just icing on the cake. He had the play of the game immediately making up for a gaffe on offense by stealing the ball right back and taking two long strides into a two handed jam. Even when he makes a mistake, he's got the hustle to make up for it immediately. I love watching this kid play, he makes at least a couple "oh wow" plays every time out.
- The resume grows longer. The Mountaineers pick up a third road win in conference, which can't be understated. Additionally, they move into a three-way tie for fourth in the conference. To get to the tournament, realistically, they need at least ten conference wins. They're halfway there. The work doesn't stop now, as the team returns to Morgantown to prepare for a stretch of three games in five days, including #7 Villanova and #2 Pittsburgh. Get one of those, and handle your business at home against Seton Hall, and the Mountianeers will be sitting pretty.