Kevin Kinder \ BlueGoldNews.com

West Virginia Looks to Win First Two Big 12 Road Contests, Sweep Three-Game Trip

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - When Jaysean Paige was named the Big 12's Player of the Week, it was simply an acknowledgement of what head coach Bob Huggins has known for some time.

Paige averaged 21 points and six rebounds off the bench in a pair of West Virginia wins at Virginia Tech and Kansas State. The senior guard scored 17 points and grabbed five boards in the 88-63 victory oveer the Hokies, then followed with a career-high 25 points to go with seven rebounds in a double-overtime win at K-State. Paige shot 50 percent (14-of-28) from the field for the week while totaling 12 rebounds (eight offensive), with two assists and one steal. 

His solid shooting and ability to provide a boost of point production is the primary reason Huggins utilizes him as a sixth man instead of starting. One of four Mountaineers averaging at least 12 points (12.3 ppg), Paige is shooting 52.2 percent on the year. Huggins has made it clear the 6-2, 210-pounder is among the most physically gifted players on the team, and could certainly be among the first five as evidenced by his 10 career starts.

"I put Jaysean with the second unit because I needed somebody who could consistently score for us," Huggins said. "He has done a pretty good job. I think he can do a lot of really good things. He can get a lot better. Jaysean has been our best athlete, and he was our best athlete a year ago. 

"He is starting to understand what he can do. He didn't rebound the ball before. He's starting to rebound it now offensively for us. There's a lot more he can do. He kinda leads by example and doesn't say very much. He's been very good with his work ethic and being in the gym and not taking things for granted."

As has the team as a whole, which is why the No. 19 Mountaineers (12-1, 1-0 Big 12) are off to a second consecutive hot start after winning 14 of their first 15 last season. Huggins noted that the increased time spent on game development has also aided Tarik Phillip and Elijah Macon, both of whom are averaging more than seven points while shooting it better than they did last season. Macon is the team's third-leading rebounder behind Devin Williams and Jonathan Holton at 4.1 per game.

"Tarik has spend an enormous amount of time in the gym and he's shooting the ball better," Huggins said. "It's because he has worked really hard at it. Same way with Elijah. He came in with a different mindset in terms of getting in the gym and working on his game."

WVU finishes the three-game road swing at TCU (8-5, 0-1) tonight at 7 p.m. The Horned Frogs had won four in a row before losing 69-48 in their Big 12 opener versus Oklahoma State, and have struggled at times to score consistently. West Virginia has gone through shooting slumps as well, but their proficiency on the offensive glass has offset that issue, and the ability to outrebound TCU and finish around the rim are keys to finishing the road swing unbeaten.

"It's been pretty long," Huggins said of the trip in which West Virginia chose to remain on the road as opposed to fly home for the short turnaround with two games in three days. "They've been great. We have tried to take them to the movies. They enjoy each other and that part of it is really good. They hang out together. It's been a business trip and they have been pretty good about taking care of business. I didn't go. I was watching my own film. We don't have the cliques that sometimes you have with teams. They all hang together, and it's not always the same people."


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