The same team that had struggled to defend earlier this season was suddenly hawkish all over the flour, forcing 15 turnovers and blocking nine shots -- including a staggering seven rejections in the first half alone.
? Flowers, a senior forward, led the block party and the scoring parade -- just as he led WVU in almost every facet of play. The Waldorf, Md., native had a career-high 24 points and did just about anything he wanted. He blocked five shots, grabbed six rebounds, dished out five assists and collected three steals in 29 minutes of play.
Beyond that, he played lock-down defense on Friars star Marshon Brooks, who scored only 13 points (breaking a streak of 11-straight games with more than 20 points for the PC senior forward) and made only five of his 15 shots. In the process, Flowers fired up a Coliseum crowd that has lacked energy through the first half of the 2010-11 season.
"I think what John did today was terrific, and it was a hard thing because he was guarding Brooks, who is a really good player," WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. "They're one of the best pump-fake teams. They do a great job...getting to the foul line. If you look at the free throws, Brooks and [Vincent] Council have shot a whole bunch of them. John did a great job of staying down. At the same time, he made some plays at the other end for us."
He did it all without his headband, the one item of gameday wear that has been a staple for the senior forward. But there was no special motivating factor that led to the change in fashion -- instead, Flowers said afterwards that the team's assistant equipment manager Steve Bierer had refused to give him a headband before Thursday night's game because of Flowers' penchant to give them away to fans at game's end.
|This game recap presented by The Book Exchange|
Flowers truly began to endear himself to West Virginia through celebratory victory dances after postseason wins over Notre Dame and Kentucky last season and through his always-entertaining Twitter feed. True to form, Flowers put a bit of that showmanship on display during his rampage.
Early in the second half, Flowers caught the ball along the baseline, took a step towards the rim, jumped up and threw down a powerful two-hand slam dunk while being fouled.
He had already broken his previous career-high (16 points in this year's season-opener against Oakland) but had been relatively stoic in the process. But finally, the senior showed some emotion, briefly breaking out into a dance before imploring the fans to make some noise as he stepped to the foul line to make his bonus free throw.
"John is one of those guys that really puts time in and works at it," Huggins said of his senior forward. "If you stay here after practice, John's out here shooting the ball. He does a good job of looking at tape and trying to study the opposition and figure out what he can take away and what he can't take away."
Flowers' "old-school" 3-point play made it 57-24, but WVU had secured the outcome long before with a backbreaking 21-0 first half run. Flowers scored seven of the first nine points of that scoring spree, aggressively looking for his own shot at spots all over the floor.
Friars coach Keno Davis, frustrated with his team's lackluster play, picked up a technical foul in the process. The Mountaineers' Mitchell hit both free throws that ensued, the final points of the spurt, to make it 38-12.
Providence never mounted a serious rally, and Davis seemed resigned to the fact his team would fall to 0-5 in Big East Conference play relatively early.
West Virginia (11-4) raised its league record to 3-2 with its third-straight Big East win after starting with losses to St. John's and Marquette. It gets a two-game reprieve from the grind of conference play, starting with a Sunday afternoon game against Purdue.
Kevin Jones added a relatively quiet 19 points and 13 rebounds -- if such a performance could ever be called "quiet." Mitchell added 14 points. Truck Bryant had 12 points and eight rebounds, and Deniz Kilicli came off the bench (indeed, Dan Jennings started in his stead) to add another 14 points.
Brooks had 13 points to lead Providence (11-7, 0-5). Council added 11 more.
Perhaps Huggins' Mountaineers have finally begun to turn the corner after their sluggish start to the season, in which many wondered if the team would be able to scrap its way into the NCAA Tournament field just one year after it advanced all the way to the Final Four.
But lest his players feel like they get a week to relax because of back-to-back out-of-conference games, Huggins said he believes the Purdue game and a mid-week trip to Charleston for the annual Capital Classic against Marshall will both have the intensity of Big East match-ups, according to Huggins.
"There is going to be great enthusiasm around the Purdue game," the head coach said, referring to Sunday's sold-out contest at the Coliseum. "Hopefully everybody comes to the game that has tickets or gives them away. Then, we're going to play Marshall, which is always an emotional game.
"I think it's a great opportunity for us to get a couple of quality non-conference wins, and then all we have to do is what we're supposed to do in the league."