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West Virginia's 20-point win over Syracuse on Sunday afternoon was full of outstanding statistical performances. However, as is usually the case, statistics don't even begin to tell the entire story.

Such is the case with Mountaineer reserves John Flowers and Wellington Smith. Though West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins uses just an eight man rotation, each player has a defined role when he is on the court. And, fittingly, each role plays to strengths of each player.

Alex Ruoff, for instance, possesses a deadly jump shot and impeccable basketball I.Q. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when on the court, Ruoff is West Virgina's first option on the perimeter.

Joe Alexander and Da'Sean Butler are excellent operators in the pivot, thus when the Mountaineers opt to post, it is more often than not with Alexander or Butler on the receiving end of an entry pass.

For Smith and Flowers, West Virginia's athletic but still developing one-two frontcourt punch off the bench, the expectations when entering the game are simple: provide energy. Specifically, do the little things that help spark their teammates, ignite the Coliseum crowd, and get the Mountaineers going on a run.



John Flowers

It could be something as noticeable as blocking a shot or grabbing a rebound. Or, it could be something as under the radar as simply sticking with their man on defense, or changing the pace on offense with fresh legs. Whichever way you slice it, the goal is to bring a new energy to the court.

"That's what we try to bring: energy off the bench," said Flowers, a freshman. "We want to build the momentum up, get it going, and then go on a run."

Over the course of the season's first 16 games, Flowers has continued to develop night in and night out into an improving presence on the court.

Smith, who struggled to break into the rotation last season as a freshman under West Virginia's prior head coach, recently went through a bit of a rough stretch, particularly during Thursday night's road loss to Louisville. During the time between that game and Sunday, the sophomore took a look in the mirror, realized his role, and performed it to a T against the Orange. Smith finished with just two points, but added six rebounds, three blocks, and three steals during 22 minutes of play. Even more important than the statistics is the fact that after a bounce-back performance against SU, Smith has renewed confidence in himself as the Mountaineers now turn their attention to Thursday night's home game against St. John's before hitting the road again for a Sunday game at USF.

"I haven't been playing well, at all. People have noticed that," Smith admitted. "I've just been trying to figure out a way to get my confidence back. Playing defense and getting rebounds is the way to do it. That's what I came to do today."

Accepting his role is a must for Smith, Flowers or any other basketball player -- and ultimately the team -- to have success. With Smith and Flowers now accepting their roles, the Mountaineers are only going to be that much better off over the long haul that remains in the Big East. Sure, each player would probably like to play more minutes, but at this time the most important thing is to provide valuable minutes while they are on the court.

"Me and Wellington talk all the time about that," Flowers noted. "We just have to come out and play, not be nervous. Just come out and play hard, make the most of our time.

"Coach Huggins is always on me in practice to get loose balls, get rebounds, and be that kind of garbage man," Smith added. "Energy off the bench."

At least for now, that is precisely what Flowers and Smith are bringing to the court for West Virginia. And as Sunday's results prove, the more energy they bring, the better the Mountaineers will be.


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