After West Virginia's subpar performance in last Thursday's win over Longwood, senior leader Alex Ruoff stayed behind on the Coliseum floor to shoot jump shots for roughly 30 minutes after the game had ended.
Needless to say, it paid off. Ruoff scored 25 points on 8-13 shooting to lead West Virginia (3-0) to a 76-42 win over Delaware State at the Charleston Civic Center on Tuesday night.
Ruoff got hot early, and stayed hot for most of the first half, pouring in 22 points in the opening 20 minutes, 18 of which came from three-point land. In fact, the senior from Spring Hill, Fla. outscored the Hornets by himself. DSU scored just 16 first-half points.
"You get in that feeling as a shooter, and you just kind of let it fly no matter what," Ruoff said. "I think I took a couple of bad shots in the first half, almost like a heat check."
"We expected it," said teammate Joe Mazzulla of Ruoff's big first half. "He shot the ball really well in practice the last two days, so we came into the game expecting him to shoot the ball really, really well. We know we have to get him his touches. He had a few heat checks, but he's an effective player. We have to make sure we get him the ball."
While Ruoff was the star, he certainly wasn't the only reason for West Virginia's commanding 50-16 halftime lead. The Mountaineers unveiled a full-court press for the first time this season, which led in part to 14 first-half turnovers for Delaware State.
Of course turnovers don't mean much if you don't capitalize on them, but WVU did precisely that, turning the Hornet miscues into 29 points in the first half alone.
The Mountaineers jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the game's opening three minutes with Ruoff nailing his first three 3s in the process. As hot as the Mountaineers began the game, they may have been even more impressive over the final 10 minutes of the first half. WVU outscored the Hornets by a hefty 28-8 margin over that period of time.
As good as the Mountaineers were in the first half, the second half was not quite as impressive. Both teams scored 26 points in the final 20 minutes as the Hornets did all they could to take Ruoff away offensively.
"They did some things in the second half and we didn't do a good enough job of getting him shots," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. "When they're chasing him like that, we had a whole bunch of other guys who had pretty good shots and didn't make any. They're going to have to make some."
"I just didn't want to do the stuff that we do (when Ruoff is taken away) because I think we're going to see it here pretty quick," he continued. "I just didn't want (other teams) to see what we're doing."
Frisco Sandidge and Arturo Dubois teamed up inside to score 14 and 13 points, respectively, for the Hornets. Delaware State made just 17 shots from the field, only two of which came from three-point range.
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, got another solid performance off the bench from freshman point guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant, who spelled a foul-plagued Joe Mazzulla with 10 points and five assists against just two turnovers.
Da'Sean Butler scored 12 and Kevin Jones chipped in 11 for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia will stay in Charleston on Tuesday night and board a plane Wednesday morning at Yeager Airport bound for Las Vegas. The Mountaineers will face Iowa and former teammate Devan Bawinkel in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Invitational. They will then face either Kansas State or Kentucky on Saturday. Both games will be played at the Orleans Arena.
Regardless of who the Mountaineers face on Saturday, the weekend in general will be a sizeable step up in competition. Whereas they have played a middle of the road Southern Conference team (Elon) a Division I Independent (Longwood) and a MEAC school (Delaware State), West Virginia will now face off against major-conference competition.
"We're looking forward to playing Iowa," said Butler. "They're very young, they start a young team, but they are very skilled. We're looking forward to going to Vegas and playing against them. If we get past them, we have to get ready to play Kansas State or Kentucky, both of whom are very good. It's a challenge.
Not to take anything away from the teams we have been playing, but when you play against a couple of teams who are not as good as the teams you are used to playing, you tend to play down to the level of the competition," he continued. "We're kind of looking forward to playing some teams who are just as good or better than us, and playing up to the competition."