Like a re-creation of Groundhog Day, No. 11 West Virginia keeps playing the same game over and over, getting the same results. Use the pressure, force the turnovers, convert in transition - and blowout the opponent by 30-plus points. From Mount St. Mary's and Mississippi Valley State to the sweep of acronyms in VMI and UMKC, it's all one pleasant, if monotonous, blur of 10 wins in the first 11 games with this latest 84-57 roasting of Radford.
To its credit, RU had a chance to make this one a bit different. The Highlanders hit four of their first seven three-pointers, and were in the game with West Virginia at 23-18 midway through the first half. But the inevitable occurred, and the tick, tick, ticking time bomb that is Press Virginia went off, forcing a dozen turnovers over the next seven minutes as WVU went on a 23-0 run for a 46-18 lead that effectively ended the game well before the break. Twenty-three points to zero, zilch, nada. Radford could barely even get the ball across half court in some stretches, and took just three shots during the entire run. And it isn't as though that's atypical.
The 12 turnovers forced and 23 consecutive points were eerily similar to West Virginia's 24-0 spurt that finished off Missouri-Kansas City in the opening 20 minutes, and the series of haymakers thrown against Western Carolina and VMI in blowouts of 35 and 45 points. It's become commonplace, this expectation that at some point, sometime, the Mountaineers are going to build the cumulative effect, take the legs, and drain the will out of its opponents - usually sometime in the first half against this nonconference slate. That happened against Radford (4-7), the Highlanders wilting well before halftime with West Virginia simply playing out the string.
"That's what we are supposed to do," said guard Tarik Phillip, one of three players in double figures as 13 different Mountaineers scored. "Even if we are supposed to win by more and we are not, we are supposed to beat up on these teams. I feel like (the lackadaisical play) is self-imposed. We look up and we see the scoreboard so we take plays off. We're not us, not really us as a whole. We're up by so much that it's 'I don't really want to run and get this rebound.' It bounces their way then."
It begs the question: Is it time to simply move on from these games, play out the slate through this week and understand that not much can be gained, or gleaned, from such competition?
"No, this is time for us to work in other players because we will need them in the season," forward Nate Adrian said. "The freshmen are going to have to play, obviously, so we have to work them into our rotation, get them playing time. We got a lot of time for practice now (with finals over). It's a good warm-up for the conference play that starts after break."
West Virginia likely has one more of these pay up, lay down affairs on Friday against Northern Kentucky, though the Norse haven't been quite as cold as some of the other WVU foes. NKU is a solid 8-3 thus far is on a five game winning streak - which could well be six after Wednesday - but anybody who thinks this will be the team that suddenly solves the pressure riddle has another thing coming. This is likely to be another romp, and another win chalked up that should send WVU into the Big 12 schedule at 11-1, which was the hope when viewing the slate early and understanding the opponent and location of the game at Virginia. That the Mountaineers got that one on the road shows that this is a legitimate top 15 team. But anything more than that remains unknown more than one-third of the way through the schedule.
That will change in 10 days, when WVU opens conference play with consecutive road games at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. But just how solid or seasoned this West Virginia team is, at least in terms of this slate so far, remains a major question. The early quizzes have been passed with the proverbial flying colors. Now, the serious tests are almost here.
"We are excited, very excited," Phillip said. "It's a tough league. We have good opponents that we are going to face each night. Even the lesser teams who are not ranked are still pretty good. We are going to have to bring our all in every game."