POG: West Virginia - Rutgers

On an afternoon in which WVU showed very balanced scoring, Wellington Smith came up with key plays on both ends of the court to earn player of the game honors in the Mountaineers' 74-56 win over Rutgers.

Smith had big plays at key moments on both ends of the court to help WVU fend off a determined effort from the Scarlet Knights. Offensively, Smith hit two early three-pointers to help stake WVU to an early 16-4 lead. In the second half, with the lead at six, Smith canned two identicall jumpers from 18 feet to push West Virginia's lead out to nine and blunt Rutgers' final push to win the game.

As big as those shots were, Smith's defense might have been just as important. He blocked five shots, including a critical rejection of Rutgers' Gregory Echenique with WVU leading by just six. He followed that with a jumper of his own that sparked WVU's final run.

For the game, Smith scored 12 points and had three rebounds, three assists and a steal to go along with his five rejections. He had just one turnover in 31 minutes of action.


  • Rutgers went to an odd defense midway through the first half, playing three man-to-man defenders with two others playing a zone in the lane. West Virginia struggled to run its offense against the strange look, which allowed the Scarlet Knights to claw back into the contest. However, at the end of both halves, WVU found the keys to cracking the combination.

    In the last three minutes of the first half, Kevin Jones and Dee Proby combined to make five consecutive shots from the key, where Rutgers' zone defenders did not want to roam. That mini-burst pushed WVU's lead from five points to a comfortable 12 at the half. Down the stretch, Wellington Smith hit a pair of jumpers from the same area, and then WVU attacked a bit more aggressively. Devin Ebanks scored and got two different trips to the free throw line. That push helped WVU increase its lead from five to 11 and put the Scarlet Knights into a hole from which it could not escape.

  • West Virginia passed the ball well, especially early, in dissecting Rutgers' straight man and 2-3 zone. WVU ended up with 21 assists on its 27 made baskets, and did a good job once it figured out how to attack the Scarlet Knights' strange defensive alignment. The Mountaineers were frustrated at times by the look, but didn't force the ball into traffic or take many bad shots -- key factors in keeping the contest under control.

  • With points at a premium, WVU's offensive rebounding was a key in the second half. The Mountaineers, shut out on the glass on the offensive end in the opening 20 minutes, racked up 12 in the second stanza that accounted for ten second chance points. Two of those hoops came at key times when Rutgers had cut the lead to six and four points respectively, and helped West Virginia maintain its lead.

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