After playing one of its worst offensive games of the season, West Virginia returned home and found the net once again, this time knocking off the Syracuse Orange in front of a capacity crowd at the WVU Coliseum.
After an uncharacteristic off-game against the Louisville Cardinals on Thursday night, senior point guard Darris Nichols bounced back in a big way as the Mountaineers rolled to a lopsided 20-point win over Jim Boeheim's young but talented Syracuse Orange.
Nichols finished the game with 17 points and six assists, and was the catalyst behind West Virginia's 13-2 run to close the first half. Nichols had a banner first half for the Mountainers, finishing the opening frame with 13 points on 5-7 shooting to go along with five dimes.
Nichols continually set the table for his teammates, and his early and often offensive aggressivness in attacking the basket took Syracuse out of its patented 2-3 zone, forcing the Orange instead to rely on man-to-man. Once that happened, the Mountaineers were able to take advantage of individual match-ups, most notably the driving ability of forward Joe Alexander.
Junior guard Alex Ruoff easily could have garnered Player of the Game honors, finishing with 23 points including an impressive seven three-pointers. Ruoff bounced back from a cold shooting night in Freedom Hall.
Alexander got off to a rusty offensive start in the first half, but his defensive presence was certainly felt as he frustrated Orange freshman forward Donte Green into one of his worst performances of the season. Green, a surefire NBA lottery pick should he choose to enter the draft next summer, did not have an open look all night as Alexander's hand was constantly in his face when the ball was let go.
In the second half, Alexander got his offense going, and finished the game with 13 points.
Perhaps the most impressive defensive play of the game came from freshman forward John Flowers. The super sub stonewalled a dunk attempt by SU forward Rick Jackson. Nichols grabbed the loose ball, and sprinted the length of the court before laying in a bucket to give West Virginia a four-point advantage. Flowers finished with three blocked shots on the game. As a team, West Virginia recorded eight blocked shots. SU had seven.