West Virginia got back in the win column this afternoon with 82-71 win over the dismal Blue Demons of DePaul. The first half may have been the best half of team basketball this team has played lately, tallying 47 points and generally getting everybody going. Here's what I saw:
- Team Basketball. West Virginia tallied 23 assists on their 28 field goals this afternoon, and it showed. Players made the extra pass consistently, and it led to plenty of good looks for everyone who saw the court. Joe Mazzulla and Truck Bryant each finished with 6 assists apiece, a welcome change from the hold-it-then-shoot-it offense the Mountaineers ran in their two recent losses. Kevin Jones and John Flowers both gobbled up easy buckets and, for the first time in awhile, this team looked like it knew what it was doing on offense. That could have been the Mountaineers, but I think a good deal of it was thanks to the woeful Blue Demons.
- Second Half Slump. Again, the Mountaineers seemed to go to sleep for a long stretch in the second half. On one hand, I can hardly blame them. The game was out of hand, and the crowd was asleep too. On the other hand, letting the Blue Demons cut the lead to seven with under three minutes to play is just a sign of sloppy play. It would have been nice to see the 'Eers run 'em off the court, and for awhile it looked like it could happen, but it never did.
- Balanced Attack. 5 of 8 players were in double digits, and only Cam Thoroughman saw minutes without dropping at least 8 points. Dalton Pepper had a great stretch in the first half, coming off of the bench and scoring 5 quick points, elevating his confidence. Casey Mitchell was 2-3 from long range, and generally played unselfish basketball and attacked the basket when the opportunity presented itself. John Flowers was John Flowers, scoring a game-high fifteen points and erasing three shots with his leaping ability. Bryant and Mazzulla were facilitators, and while Truck's shooting slump continues, he played some productive minutes out there today.
- Numbers Game. West Virginia's seventh conference win puts them in seventh place, which is a nice place to be for the moment. No rest for the weary though. The 'Eers travel to the Dome to take on Syracuse on Big Monday, and a loss there could drop them six spots to thirteenth, where the Orange currently sit. This conference is brutal, and some experts have eleven teams going to the big dance. That may make it seem as if the Mountaineers and their top 20 RPI are safe, but the truth is that no body really knows. Check back on Monday for more on the Mountaineers' and the Orange's big date.