Our picks for outstanding performances in West Virginia's win over Arkansas-Monticello.
Throughout the week, head coach Bob Huggins openly challenged senior center Jamie Smalligan to become more aggressive and productive in the rebounding game, saying that the Grand Rapids, Mich. native had "as many rebounds as a dead man" against exhibition opponent Mountain State University. Smalligan answered his coach's challenge on the game's first possession, and continued the strong performance throughout the game as West Virginia rolled in the regular season opener.
Smalligan finished with six boards, including three on the offensive end, as West Virginia out-rebounded the Boll Weevils by a final tally of 41-30. The big man also finished four-of-10 from the field for 12 points in his season debut.
"I told Jamie that he's now six up on a dead man," Huggins quipped afterward.
The night was special for Huggins, who busted out a royal blue three-piece suit with corresponding gold pinstripes for his long-awaited debut at West Virginia. The former Mountaineer guard had several family members and former teammates in the crowd for his first game at the Coliseum in roughly 30 years.
Sophomore forward Da'Sean Butler had a solid all-around effort with 14 points and nine rebounds in his first career start. Butler was West Virginia's productive sixth man a year ago, and didn't miss a beat after being inserted into the lineup under Huggins.
Message to the men in stripes: let the young men play. Chances are that the 8,371 in attendance didn't come to see the officials perform, but that's precisely what happened throughout stretches of the game. From press row at least, it seemed as though an inordinate number of offensive fouls, particulary illegal screens, were whistled on the night. The teams finished with a combined 35 fouls, but many on both sides seemed to be of the nit-pick variety. It will be interesting to see if the obscure calls such as this will continue throughout the season.