Outside The Lines

Cam Thoroughman's stat line for the Providence game certainly didn't leap off the page, so it might have seemed a stretch to name him the player of the game. However, Thoroughman's off the chart contributions were just as big as Darris Nichols' points and Joe Alexander's rebounds.

This isn't to say that scoring, rebounding, assists and other positive stats aren't important -- they obviously are. But it's just as important to see and recognize good play that isn't measured by numbers. That's exactly what Thoroughman contributed, so it's important to understand that his two points, three rebounds, three assists and one steal only scratched the surface of what he did in the chilly Dunkin' Donuts Center on Saturday night.

The one play that immediately stood out was his diving steal at mid-court which led to a Joe Alexander layup and the start of West Virginia's first half rally, but again, focusing on just that one play would be to miss the bigger picture. His defensive contributions were much more than that one play.

Squaring off against scorer Geoff McDermott, Thoroughman made passing the ball to him in the post difficult. And while he didn't always prevent it, he was able to force McDermott out of his spot to catch the ball, which moved him further from the basket and out of scoring position. His defense also led directly to two of McDermott's three turnovers. On one of those, he came over the top to try to deflect the pass, and although he didn't get it, his presence distracted McDermott into a kick of the ball out of bounds.

It wasn't just inside, either. Despite not being the quickest guy on the roster, Thoroughman covered McDermott when he moved outside, twice forcing wildly errant shots as he closed out on him on the perimeter. Thoroughman also jumped over screens and hedged Providence dribblers away from the basket, which gave his teammates time to recover.

It's no coincidence that West Virginia's defense was much better once Thoroughman came onto the floor. Thoroughman was active, aggressive and harassing on defense, and helped hold McDermott to just four points on 1-6 shooting.

Offensively, the Portsmouth, Oh., native passed up a couple of shots he probably should have taken, but that's a minor complaint, especially given the fact that he often found open teammates with his passes. He avoided the fault that WVU has fallen into in recent games -- standing with the ball in place -- and instead either made a move and dished or passed the ball quickly to create seams in the Providence defense.

None of those things show up in the box score -- and often they aren't even noticed at all. Certainly, West Virginia has a number of players that contribute in this manner. Darris Nichols routinely dives on the floor for loose balls, and contests shots with abandon. Joe Mazzulla, also singled out by head coach Bob Huggins for his effort, is a gritty defender. When those players, and the rest of the Mountaineer team, are concentrating on playing hard and making these plays that are outside the stat lines, West Virginia is a tough team to defeat.

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The question that remains to be answered -- is this performance enough to elevate Thoroughman to the starting lineup? Making your first collegiate start on the road against Pitt might be a bit much to ask of a player that has seen limited action in his career, but if Huggins is serious about his comments of choosing Thoroughman to help dig WVU out of the Big East standings hole it is in, then it might be a logical move.

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