John Flowers bounced back from an ankle injury to put up a solid performance in West Virginia's 69-50 win over The Citadel and earn player of the game honors.
John Flowers, who was feared to have a broken foot following a first half injury against Loyola University of Maryland, was limited in practice for several days following that contest. Fortunately, the Mountaineers had nine days until their next game against The Citadel, and the Maryland native was able to recuperate nicely. Although he was limited in practice for much of the intervening week, he played with the energy and verve that head coach Bob Huggins wants to see out the long frontcourt performer.
I thought John played the way he did at the start of practice," Huggins said afterward. "He had kind of leveled off a little bit [until tonight]."
Filling a role usually handled by Kevin Jones, Flowers was a key contributor in several areas. Playing 22 minutes, the most of any reserve, the 6-8 forward scored 13 points on 5-8 shooting from the floor. He hit his only three point attempt, and made two second half free throws after missing a pair in the opening period. He also collected two rebounds, blocked a shot and had a steal as the Mountaineers move to 2-0 on the season.
The return of Devin Ebanks to the bench, and Joe Mazzulla to the floor, might not have been huge differences in this game, but they help ease, along with Flowers' play, some of the depth concerns West Virginia had going into the contest. Mazzulla, who admitted that his surgically repaired left shoulder does still pain him on occasions, took a couple of shots that caused him to wince. However, he shook off those dings and was able to "scrape some of the rust off" as Huggins put it. Mazzulla played 15 minutes, scoring two points while dishing out a game-high six assists. The tough Rhode Islander also unleashed a full out dive for the ball in the second half despite his still-painful condition.
In a game that was slowed by the deliberate offense of The Citadel, WVU protected the ball well on its own end. While the Mountaineers did take some hurried shots and didn't get the ball inside as much as they would have liked, they turned it over just four times, as opposed to 19 miscues by the Bulldogs. The 15 extra possessions in a game that had limited numbers of shots due to The Citadel's smart and well-executed strategy was a key factor in WVU's methodical win.
Against a team that it might have expected to pound inside, West Virginia was inconsistent in attacking the basket. Part of that was due to The Citadel's sagging defense, which clogged the lane at times, and West Virginia's 8-23 shooting mark from three-point range wasn't enough to convince the Bulldogs to come out of the paint. WVU did hurry several shots in the offense, however, and settled for jumpers a few more times than the coaching staff liked. WVU did get the ball inside a bit more in the second half, and managed to shoot 50% from the field, but offensive consistency and an attack the rim mentality are still items that West Virginia must improve upon.