Good Enough

Like a Bloody Mary the morning after a long night of partying, a miserable USF team was the perfect cure for any potential hangover the WVU men's basketball team might have had after its Wednesday night loss to Marshall. The No. 21 Mountaineers were lethargic, but it didn't matter against the Bulls, as West Virginia won 56-46 on Sunday afternoon.

It was hard to tell where there was less energy Sunday afternoon: on the court at the Coliseum or in the stands, where a quiet crowd of 10,744 did little to pump up the Mountaineer players.

To be fair, the players did little to generate much enthusiasm as well, seemingly sleepwalking through long stretches of the contest.

"I thought it was kind a ‘blah' game, both teams," Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins said. "The whole building was kind of ‘blah.'"

It didn't matter much against a Bulls team that was every bit as bad as advertised, going through a brutal stretch of 9:42 in the first half without a field goal. That allowed West Virginia, which wasn't exactly lighting things up offensively itself, to go on an 11-0 run and take a 27-16 lead into the locker room at halftime.

South Florida (7-14, 1-7) never seriously threatened again, and the hosts cruised throughout the second half to earn their fourth-consecutive Big East Conference win after starting 0-2 in league play.

If there was anything positive Mountaineer fans could take away from a game that was occasionally ugly, it was that Huggins' trademark stingy defense was, again, tough to score against.

The 46 points USF scored tied for the fewest ever tallied by a WVU Big East Conference opponent since the men's basketball program joined the league in the 1990s. The only other times West Virginia had given up so few points to a Big East opponent were a 2009 game against DePaul and a 2007 game against St. John's.

"We played really well defensively at times," Huggins said. "That's the best we've run the match-up [zone], and we did it for an extended period of time."

"To say that it was an ugly game would be an understatement," said Bulls head coach Stan Heath. "It was brutal for both teams offensively. We couldn't throw it in the ocean. We did a good job of holding them a little bit, but we played a little worse than they did.

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"As bad as we played, they didn't play a whole lot better."

Indeed, it wasn't pretty, but it was a much-needed win for the Mountaineers after a lackluster performance against Marshall on Wednesday night, a 75-71 loss in the annual Capital Classic in Charleston.

In the lead-up to their return to conference play, players spoke about the need to respond to that defeat well. It may not have been the most picturesque of games for the West Virginia, but it was, in the end, a victory.

"The main thing whenever you have a loss is you can't let one loss turn to two," said WVU senior forward Cam Thoroughman, who started for only the second time in his career on Sunday.

"We talked to each other and we told each other we needed to bounce back, and we knew it meant a lot to other people that we lost to Marshall, but we couldn't let that be the end. We had to come back and get a win [today] ... we knew this was really important and we had to bounce back, and I think we did a good job of that and not letting [the loss] hang over our heads."

That Thoroughman started at all was a story in itself, and the circumstances surrounding that lineup shuffle dominated the postgame press conference with Huggins as well.

Thoroughman took the place of sophomore center Dan Jennings in the line-up. Jennings was not seen on the team bench or elsewhere in the Coliseum during the second half.

"Yeah, it's unexcused," Huggins said of Jennings' absence. "[In]excusable. He'll never be seen again, I guess.

"The truth of the matter is he's been a non-entity. You know, we started him to try to get some other guys motivated and things, and he did work hard in practice for a while, but he hasn't -- I mean, look at his career stats. We didn't just lose Kevin Jones. You know what I'm saying? It's a sidebar."

Thoroughman filled in and didn't score a point, but he did grab four rebounds and toss out four assists in his 23 minutes of play.

West Virginia (13-5, 4-2) was led by Casey Mitchell, who had a surprising double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds. John Flowers and the aforementioned Jones each added another 13 points.

The Bulls were led by Augustus Gilchrist, as the forward had a double-double of his won with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Only one other USF player, Jawanza Poland, scored more than six points (he had nine). The Bulls had 16 turnovers and only six assists.


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