Another Way To Win

West Virginia has been many things in coach Bob Huggins' tenure, but versatile isn't one that quickly comes to mind. It typically has to defend well and outrebound opponents to have a chance. But the Mountaineers showed Wednesday that there is truth to the old saying that there is more than one way to skin a 'Cat.

If you're a Mountaineer fan -- or, for that matter, Huggins -- the box score from the team's Big East opener isn't exactly the formula one might draw up to find success the rest of the way in conference play.

This was not a typical performance from a Huggins-coached WVU team. Villanova's Wildcats -- a guard-oriented squad that, in Huggins' parlance, plays "four out, one in" -- outrebounded West Virginia by a 40-33 margin.

If defense is judged ultimately by how many of an opposing team's shots go in the basket, it wasn't exactly a stellar night from the Mountaineers there either. Nova made 45.9 percent of its shots despite making only 3-of-14 3-pointers (21.4 percent), many of which were open looks.

Even Kevin Jones, typically the closest thing to Old Faithful this side of Yellowstone, was a rather tame version of himself, registering a pedestrian (at least by the lofty standard he has set for himself) 13 points and seven rebounds.

On paper, it looked like a formula for failure. But they don't play the games on paper, thankfully for the 11,262 who came out to watch what may have been West Virginia's last Big East opener ever.

Instead of Jones scoring putback baskets and owning the glass, the offense came from the outside. WVU hit eight 3-pointers, with half of them coming from Truck Bryant.

It was Bryant who was everything his team needed at exactly the right time.

Some of his career-high 34 points helped give the Mountaineers an early lead. More helped steady things when Villanova made a run to start the second half. Others powered a decisive 14-2 run that turned a 63-63 game entering the final few minutes into a 77-65 no-doubter in the final few seconds before the game ended as an 83-69 decision.

"We had no answer for him," Nova coach Jay Wright said of Bryant, a notion that may have left many WVU observers -- who have seen Bryant at his worst -- stunned. "We couldn't guard him in man-to-man."

And despite being badly outrebounded, WVU still managed to attempt three more field goals than the visitors -- largely because they forced 15 turnovers and committed only seven.

That, and the 24-6 disparity in points off turnovers, was truly the difference on Wednesday.

The Mountaineers' freshmen didn't look wet behind the ears in critical moments. Yes, Jabarie Hinds made only two of his 10 shots, but he dished out five assists and committed only one turnover.

"For a freshman point guard in his first Big East game, that's really good," Wright said.

And for a team using so many players with little experience -- four true freshmen, a redshirt freshmen and a first-year transfer made up six of the nine players who saw action for WVU -- a win over even a middling Villanova team is a really good start to conference play.

Maybe this isn't Huggins' best team at West Virginia, but it may be his most versatile. That counts for something, as Wednesday's win showed.


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