Exhibiting Talent

Bob Huggins' team showed why it is ranked in the nation's preseason top 10 on Sunday, jumping out to a 30-6 lead in the game's first seven minutes and keeping Mountain State at arm's length in a 104-82 exhibition win at the WVU Coliseum.

The Mountaineers, ranked No. 8 and No. 9 in the AP and ESPN/USA Today preseason polls, respectively, had little trouble dismantling their NAIA opposition early.

Freshman guard Dalton Pepper scored his first collegiate points, a 3-pointer with 12:54 left in the first half, to give West Virginia a 30-6 edge.

From that point, the home team maintained control throughout, leading by as many as 31 points after Devin Ebanks scored on a layup to five his team a 75-44 edge with 11:42 remaining.

Mountain State would draw within no fewer than 19 points, only getting to that point after a late 8-0 run when Huggins emptied the bench and put in reserves furthest down the depth chart.

WVU had a 16-0 edge in points off turnovers, a 13-0 advantage in second-chance points, and a 19-2 margin in bench scoring in the opening 20 minutes.

Huggins and company owned a 28-18 rebounding edge and had eight steals in that same time span. They ended the game with 55 rebounds to the Cougars' 41 and used their 18 offensive boards to score 24 second-chance points.

"I knew that if I put five of the older guys out there, we would play very well," Huggins said.

"We're going to continue to try and get those new guys in there. It's hard, because when they get in there, the offense slows down. They make mistakes defensively that the other guys have to cover. It's just going to take some time."

Pepper was just one of the team's four scholarship newcomers that saw action in the first half. All were impressive in stretches.

This game recap presented by The Book Exchange

Casey Mitchell had a quick start in his first action at West Virginia, starting at shooting guard and hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the opening half to go with two free throws and a lay-in.

He had 10 first half points and ended the game with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including a 3-of-8 mark from 3-point range.

Forward Deniz Kilicli, who will not be available to play during the first 20 regulation games of the season after he played with a professional on a club team in his native Turkey, checked in at the 10:21 mark of the half.

The 6-foot-9, 265-pounder made his first impressive play on the perimeter, starting at the top of the arc and whipping a nice pass to Wellington Smith, who was 10 feet from the goal on the baseline. As the defense collapsed on Smith, the senior found an open John Flowers, who was fouled on the play.

Kilicli (pronounced Ka-LICK-e, according to the WVU media guide) had eight points and six rebounds in 19 minutes of action. He added a nice block of Mountain State's Alvin Mitchell, who was making a driving attempt for a lay-up, in the second half -- one of his two denials.

Pepper added nine points and four rebounds, and Dan Jennings managed one impressive block in his five minutes on the floor.

"I'm just looking for them to fit in. It's pretty good when you don't notice them," Huggins said of the newcomers. "In all honesty, our guys are pretty good. They're not going to stand out. You don't want them to stand out in a negative way. I thought they blended in pretty well."

Still, it was several of the head coach's sophomores that stole the show. Kevin Jones led the squad with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Ebanks was not far behind, tallying 19 points and grabbing 10 boards of his own.

Mountain State's talented duo of Alvin Mitchell and Nick Aldridge did their part, scoring 33 and 29 points, respectively. Aldridge also snared 11 rebounds.

That experience of playing against relatively good teams in exhibition games could only serve to further the development of the Mountaineers' younger players, according to Huggins.

"I've tried to play (MSU) every year because they've been the most competitive [in exhibitions]," the head coach said. "We don't need to bring someone in here and win by 70. It doesn't do us any good and doesn't do them any good. In all reality, we're probably good enough this year to do that [to some other teams]."


  • One of the few Mountaineers who did not see action was point guard Joe Mazzulla, who continued to wait along the sidelines as he tries to recuperate after aggravating last season's shoulder injury in practice two weeks ago.

    "He could have come back and played today," Huggins said. "But it wouldn't serve a purpose. I understand that we're going to have to start playing him to get some of the rust off, but all he would have done is take minutes from players like Casey who need them."

  • While Kilicli's performance was promising for his future, it is the last time the freshman from Turkey will see the floor until the team's next exhibition game, which comes in December against the University of Charleston (W.Va.).

    That made getting the forward minutes against Mountain State all the more important for his development.

    "I think he is potentially a first team all-Big East kind of guy," Huggins said. "He has that kind of talent. He is a guy who, hopefully, we can get him minutes at the end [of the season]-- which is hard, because we're hopefully going to be playing for a Big East championship and the Big East tournament championship."

    "It's easier said than done to get him minutes, but we need to. Come March, he is a guy that can do some things, and we don't have anybody else that can do them."

  • Huggins restated his displeasure with the NCAA's ruling that Kilicli must serve that 20 game suspension, saying that the organization's expectations are unrealistic when it comes to that particular portion of the amateurism rule.

    "It's a crazy deal," said the third-year coach. "Here's a kid that's over in Turkey and didn't speak English. I would venture to say the NCAA manual is not required reading in Turkey and not on the bestseller list."

    "For them to think that a 16 or 17 year old kid is supposed to know that when they bring a pro on the team that he's not supposed to play -- it's just a shame. He's not a guy that they tried to bring over and recruited. He just played on his town team because he wanted to play basketball. It's the same thing that anyone else in this country would have done."

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