"We just got dominated tonight--I mean just dominated," says Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. "They're a good team."
Auburn held a 2-0 lead on a DeWayne Reed left-handed lay-up, but the Mountaineers put the Tigers to bed early with 21-2 run in a game that had a late 8:30 p.m. tip.
"This was good for us because they put so much pressure on the rim," says Huggins, who is in his first year as a coach in Morgantown, W.V. "They are so good at dribble penetration. We needed some work against the dribble penetration. Defensively I think it really helped us. They switch everything and change defenses and I thought that was good for us offensively.
"We made some shots today and that pulls the defense out," he adds. "Joe set the tone early and then Alex made some shots. We got some baskets off our defense which helped."
It was late in Birmingham, but the bank was still open on a couple of jumpers for Alexander, who torched the Auburn man-to-man defense for eight quick points. The Tigers were hampered with turnovers and cold shooting as West Virginia claimed a 28-6 lead with 8:25 to go in the first half.
The Mountaineers on the other hand, didn't miss many. They made 18-29 shots in the first half and only turned it over four times. Alexander had a pair of dunks, one the hoop-and-harm variety on an impressive alley-oop over Quan Prowell.
"Alexander is probably one of the most athletic kids I've seen in a while," Lebo says. Alexander finished with 17 points, four assists and four rebounds.
Ruoff had 15 of his 28 in the first 20 minutes on just six shots. He was 3-3 behind the arch and 3-3 inside it and he finished the game 10-12 from the field.
"It got away from us early and we didn't have any answers for Alexander or Ruoff," Lebo explains. "They are terrific players. We didn't have any answers for them. They played awfully well and we played poorly, fatigued and tired. When we got behind we couldn't get a stop."
Rasheem Barrett, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, had three turnovers, three fouls and zero points at intermission.
In his first game of the 2007-2008 season, Prowell finished with just four points on 2-4 shooting.
The biggest lead in the first half was 22 points, which the Mountaineers held twice. A Reed three-pointer with just seconds remaining cut it to 17 at 44-27 as both teams went into the locker rooms.
Switching into a zone defensively after starting in man-to-man, and with some points on the offensive end from Reed and Frank Tolbert, the Tigers were able to play even ball with the Mountaineers for a stretch near the end of the first half. The duo of Reed and Tolbert combined for 20 of Auburn's first 27.
However, the second half was similar to the beginning of the first. Auburn turnovers led to West Virginia baskets on the other end as the Mountaineers went on another run, this time to put the game out of reach.
Ruoff hit a jumper for two and another for three to put his team up 58-33. Joe Mazzulla capped off the 18-4 Mountaineer run with a pair of lay-ups, the second one after a steal, to put WVU 62-33.
The Tigers had 20 turnovers for the game, compared to just seven by the opposition. Even though the Mountaineers made a high percentage of their shots (36-59), the Tigers still won the rebounding battle 31-25. However, WVU had a 24:7 assist to turnover ratio while Auburn finished with just eight assists compared to 20 giveaways.
"Their defense really bothered us," Lebo notes. "They're physical. Their size--we can't simulate that in practice and we haven't been able to. Their strength really bothered us."
Auburn's leading scorer coming into the game, Korvotney Barber, had just eight points on 4-6 shooting from the field.
"They were fronting and they're physical and they're big," Lebo notes. "We couldn't get the ball into him at all."
Reed, who hit three treys late in the second half, finished with 19 points to lead the Tigers. Barrett also hit some late jumpers from short range to finish with 10, and was the only other Tiger in double figures.
"In the first half they had the momentum, they had an energy that we just couldn't match," Reed said. "They took the game over and came out with the win.
"We tried," Reed adds. "We couldn't get in our offense because they were denying the ball. That was it."
Auburn finished a respectable 26-52 from the floor and 6-15 on threes. However, going 1-8 from the foul line and committing 20 turnovers is usually enough to lose a game against a sharp-shooting opponent. The Mountaineers made 9-19 threes with Ruoff going 6-8 from long range.
Auburn's next game is against Southern on Dec. 15 in the Coors Classic in Mobile, Ala., at 5 p.m.