Keeping The Faith

West Virginia wouldn't have won Saturday's game against Texas Tech if not for the play of Deniz Kilicli. But don't ask the senior why he was able to find success against the Red Raiders.

Kilicli was borderline unguardable in WVU's 66-64 win. The big man from Turkey scored a career-high 25 points and added eight rebounds.

"Obviously, Deniz played very well," coach Bob Huggins said. "I think if we could pass the ball better, I think he could have gotten 40. He did a great job of sealing [defenders]. I thought he was open quite a few more times than when we actually did get him the ball."

In a sign of just how dominant he was in the post, Kilicli got to the free throw line 14 times -- almost as much as the entire Texas Tech team (which had 18 attempts) and played a prominent role in the disqualification of three Red Raiders due to fouls, as Dejan Kravic, Jordan Tolbert and Jaye Crockett simply could not defend Kilicli without fouling.

The production was staggering. But there was no particular reason Kilicli could think of as to why it happened on this night and not others.

"I don't know," he said. "It just happens sometimes. I really don't know ... it's just my instincts, man. I tried to do what I do at practice."

Don't call it luck, though. Kilicli was everything Mountaineer fans and Huggins have wanted him to be. He was active on both ends of the floor, made himself available in the post and finished efficiently when given the opportunity.

He hasn't turned offensive performances like this one often this year, but quietly, he has started to improve in recent weeks. He has scored eight or more points in seven of WVU's last eight games. Likewise, he has shot 50 percent from the field or better in seven of those eight games.

"I'm going to do what I do," Kilicli said of his mindset. "I don't know what will happen, but personally, I'm going to try to play my best. The rest of it, I don't know."

While many have noted Kilicli's struggles at times this season, Huggins said the senior's detractors don't notice the other things he does to help the team.

Kilicli is the best player on the team at defending ball screens, according to his head coach. The attention he demands in the post -- even when he isn't scoring -- is a key reason why guards Eron Harris and Terry Henderson have had open looks at jump shots that have fallen more regularly as of late.

Few notice those things, but Huggins does. Add what has been a strong relationship between the two for years, and the coach said he sometimes finds himself laughing at the criticism lobbed at Kilicli by fans and other observers.

"He is a talented, talented guy," the head coach said, noting Kilicli's aptitude at everything from basketball to guitar playing to hunting and fishing. Of the senior's critics, Huggins said most don't know the first thing about basketball, and some might be more apt to be found working at a fast food joint than on the hardwood.

"He's not a quitter. Deniz is not a quitter. That's not who he is."

That faith from Huggins, Kilicli said, is all he needs to keep going despite a senior season that has hardly gone according to plan.

And if West Virginia is going to make any sort of serious run against a tough slate of opponents down the stretch, it will need Kilicli to keep ignoring the detractors and play like he did on Saturday.

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