West Virginia (16-3, 5-2) opened up the game with a 9-0 run which helped set the tone for the rest of the contest. WVU then expanded on their lead as they jumped out to a 20-4 margin on DePaul (8-12, 1-7) by the 11:42 mark in the first half.
"Getting down 20-4 early, that's a tough deal," said DePaul interim coach Tracy Webster. "I tell you one thing, our guys did a great job of trying to battle and fight back."
The Mountaineers featured a lot of length which posed matchup problems for DePaul. Webster gave freshman forward Tony Freeland his first career start in an effort to match up better with WVU.
"He brings energy in practice, and you want to reward that energy in practice," said Webster. "We thought he would be able to help us get off to a good start."
West Virginia was a balanced team that featured four players in double-figures. De'Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks, Wellington Smith, and Truck Bryant all finished with 14 points apiece for the Mountaineers.
The good news for DePaul tonight was the return of junior forward Mac Koshwal and sophomore point guard Michael Bizoukas
"It was great to have the majority of our team back, maybe not at 100 percent right now, it was great to have these guys back," said Webster. "Now we can continue to try to get better as a team. I think we are getting better."
In his first game back since suffering a right foot injury 13 days ago, Koshwal finished with seven points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench.
"Mac, I know he was a little rusty, but at the same time he wants to win," Webster said. "He'll do anything for his teammates to try to get a win."
"They got their big fellow back today and he's a load," said WVU coach Bob Huggins. "He really dominated us on the glass."
While Koshwal returned to the court today, he is still far from being back to his old self.
"He's been trying to do some running on his own," said Webster. "He still needs to get some conditioning going. What keeps him over the top a little bit is, he has that desire."
It was the first game back for Bizoukas in four weeks after going down with a knee injury gainst Texas State. Bizoukas contributed by dishing out a game-high six assists, five points, four rebounds, and one steal. Bizoukas brought with him his usual brand of intensity and high energy.
Bizoukas has a refreshing attitude on the effort that he brings to the court.
"I should play like that all the time," said Bizoukas. "They pay for me to come here. There's no excuse for me to play otherwise."
DePaul senior guard Will Walker led all scorers with 17 points on six of 12 from the field. Walker passed up former Blue Demon Marcus Singer to take second place on the school's career three-point field goal list. He trails only Drake Diener in threes.
"You get nervous any time Will Walker has the ball," said Huggins. "We kind of lost him early and let him make one, then he gets on a roll. He's done that so many times over the years. We tried to keep the ball out of his hands as much as we could."
It was a very physical game which included some questionable calls by the officials. The Blue Demons were whistled 25 times to 18 fouls for WVU.
Then DePaul center Krys Faber was ejected for what officials called a flagrant foul when he threw an inadvertent elbow to the face of Butler with 7:59 remaining in the game. Webster didn't comment on the play.
"I haven't watched the tape," said Webster. "I did not see it live."
The physical play translated into 15 turnovers for DePaul, which the Mountaineers converted into 17 points off of turnovers. That was a big difference in the game.
The Blue Demons continue to struggle scoring on the offensive end. For DePaul to remain competitive in the Big East, they need to continue to step it up on defense.
"Tracy's doing what he needs to do to give his guys a chance to win," said Huggins. "They do a good job of shortening the game."
No. 9 West Virginia Too Much for DePaul
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