In a scenario that has played out time and again in February and March, John Flowers gets hit with a couple of early fouls, necessitating a long stay on the bench for the remainder of the half. On many occasions, Flowers has been able to overcome that early hit and bounce back for a solid performance, but against Kentucky it sent him into a funk. After playing ten minutes in the opening period, the senior recorded just seven in the final stanza, and watched from the bench as the Wildcats rallied from eight points down to win.
As head coach Bob Huggins has pointed out numerous times this year, Flowers is the Mountaineers' most athletic defender and rebounder. Take him out of the game, and WVU's front line simply doesn't have much bounce. Kentucky took advantage of that, grabbing eight offensive rebounds and scoring 34 points in the paint on the way to the third round win.
Flowers, who reacted by stretching and pulling down his much ballyhooed headband after the second foul call, noted that the recurring pattern got into his head.
"It's crazy. Just crazy," he said of the calls. "[When they call it like that], it messes with my whole mindset When they call touch fouls like that.. .how do you play defense. It just took me out of the game completely. I mentally wasn't in the game. My head wasn't in it. I just can't figure out what you can and cannot do."
The senior 's play on the court seemed to bear that out. He scored just two points and had a single rebound on a day in which the Mountaineers needed to grab just a handful of more defensive boards to move on to the Sweet 16. WVU also missed his shot blocking, as it got a total of just two during the two games in Tampa, with both of those coming from guard Joe Mazzulla.
Of course, the bad ending shouldn't tarnish Flowers' fine career. He finished tied for fourth on WVU's career clocked shots list with 157, and turned himself from a defense-only player to one that had to be accounted for on the offensive end as well. He worked hard to improve his shot and his overall game, and certainly was one of the more entertaining players to don a Mountaineer uniform in recent years. Still, the sting of the subpar performance in his final game will take a while to go away.
"On defense, it definitely got into my head," said Flowers, who also missed a lay-up in the opening moments of the second half. "I just wasn't in the game."