For Jaysean Paige, it was something of a continuance of the instant offense he has provided off the Mountaineer bench. The senior hit four threes in the opening half, part of a 17-point explosion that helped West Virginia to a 50-22 halftime lead. In 13 minutes of action, Paige made six of his 11 shots and grabbed four rebounds.
Perhaps even more impressively, Paiged didn't succumb to the "heat check" which so often befalls a player who hits a shooting hot streak. He noted afterward that he was simply concentrating on staying in the flow of the game, and he didn't force shots, even though he was clearly in something of a zone. He attempted just one shot after halftime.
"He has been great," head coach Bob Huggins said afterward. "He really has. I would like for him to drive it more. He is by far our best straight-line driver. I'd like for him to put more pressure on the rim."
In his post game comments, Paige described his thought process after following a miss with a drained three, and some of his post-shot moves.
Esa Ahmad bookended Paige's performance with a strong second half after another tough opening 20 minutes. He provided a glimpse of things to come at the end of that half, however, with a big tomahawk dunk off a steal. Ahmad has struggled this year to find his niche and get comfortable with the increased pace of play, not to mention all of the work required to become a successful college player. Ahmad said that he did feel more comfortable at times versus EKU, but by no means was he satisifed with his overall performance.
For West Virginia fans looking for encouragement, though, it was there. Ahmad made several strong moves to the hoop in the second half, and dealt out three assists while coming up with a steal. He didn't have a rebound, which is something that head coach Bob Huggins will surely point out, but the biggest item of the evening was that he didn't disappear on offense. To be sure, it's a long way from Eastern Kentucky to Iowa State or Oklahoma, but Ahmad now has some success to build upon. He also has the experience of a number of players who were first year performers last season.
"They have been trying to help him," Huggins said of players such as Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles, Tarik Phillip and Paige.