The junior scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds for his third career double-double – and second in three games – as West Virginia beat Winthrop 70-53 Saturday. He scored eight points in a key late run that put the Mountaineers ahead 63-47 with three minutes left. His jumper and driving lay-up around four free throws proved the deciding difference in a game that was close with 10 minutes left.
"I was listening to other people too much instead of listening to myself and knowing what I can do," said Alexander, who was held scoreless in two of the final seven games last season and virtually disappeared from WVU's offense. "This is a great offense, and I like running it and the way we are running it now. I don't feel nervous and I am not rushing things."
Alexander's emergence has coincided with first-year coach Bob Huggins motion-based offense, which allows players greater freedom to create scoring opportunities than did John Beilein's screening, cutting sets used last season. After scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a win over New Mexico State, Alexander tallied 22-points and eight rebounds in the last game before his outburst against Winthrop.
The Eagles used a series of inside baskets to get within single digits at 50-41 with 10 minutes left before Alexander reentered the game. He clogged the interior and repeatedly grabbed rebounds over shorter foes force Winthrop away from the basket. That propelled defensive-minded West Virginia, which scored nine of the next 12 points for a 59-44 edge with five minutes left.
"He still has lapses," Huggins said. If we could get rid of those lapses he would be something special. He is getting better and those are fewer and fewer. He has a wealth of potential."
Darris Nichols and Joe Mazzulla added 12 and 10 points, respectively, for West Virginia. The total was a career-high for Mazzulla. Winthrop, which shot a season-worst 29.8 percent from the field, was led by Charles Corbin's 13 points. Antwon Harris came off the bench to add 11 on nine of nine free throw shooting for the Eagles. That was part of a 22 for 29 effort from the stripe that allowed Winthrop to stay in the game.
West Virginia made 18 of 25 free throws, but finished just six of 24 from 3-point range for a season-worst 25 percent. It missed 14 of its first 18 threes.
"We're keeping the floor spread and getting shots," Alexander said. "We just have to make them. There's a lot less on your mind because it is not so complicated."
West Virginia (5-1) led 32-24 at the break. Winthrop (4-3) made just four field goals in the opening period. It did get within 52-44 on Michael Jenkins' driving lay-up with 7:30 remaining, but couldn't cut the deficit lower than eight points the rest of the way. West Virginia finished with a 40-34 rebounding advantage and committed just nine turnovers to Winthrop's 15.
"That is the first team that has been able keep the ball on one side of the court," Winthrop coach Randy Peele said. "For 40 minutes they made it difficult for us to catch the ball. You have to be intelligent to play against they type of ball, and I am disgusted at our play."
It was West Virginia's first reasonably close home game after it beat its first three foes by an average of 53 points. The Mountaineers had set Coliseum records for margin of victory in its last two games, wins of 65 and 66 points, respectively.
"You get better when you play better teams," Huggins said. "We guarded well and we won even though we didn't shoot well."