ANAHEIM, Calif. – Players of the Game in West Virginia's 85-62 win over Long Beach State.
Casey Mitchell's career-high 18 points earn Player of the Game honors in an opening round win in the 76 Classic. The junior guard hit WVU's first three three-pointers of the game as the No. 8 Mountaineers built an early 10-point lead. He later hit another, then settled into a defensive game in slowing Long Beach State's pair of scoring threats in Stephan Gilling and Greg Plater. Mitchell's hot start was imperative, and his perfect four-of-four performance from the line helped secure an opening win in the 76 Classic. Mitchell's overall numbers were not glaring, but his shooting pulled LBSU away from the basket – allowing Kevin Jones and Da'Sean Butler to better operate.
"It takes away from their pressure," head coach Bob Huggins said. "They can't put as much pressure on the ball because they are concerned about us finishing. … We're capable of shooting it well. We did that better today."
Kevin Jones gets a Burner for his across-the-board excellence. The sophomore scored 10 points and added nine rebounds and five assists and two steals in the win. In yet another game in which forward Devin Ebanks did not play, Jones helped control the interior and take the 49ers out of any consistent interior game. He was physical when needed, and he showed finesse and some touch around the rim. Jones corralled a rebound early in the first half under the basket, then maneuvered up and under two opposing players before finishing. His power around the hoop was a positive, and his blockout ability and sealing were a great example of how to play, even against lesser foes. Jones also began and ended WVU's 12-0 run with buckets and added an exclamation later with a dunk to finish a 10-0 spurt.
Da'Sean Butler. One might argue this name should be etched into the Player of the Game honors. Butler again shot well, finished at the foul line and, perhaps most importantly, served as a needed point guard when Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla were in foul trouble late in the game. The outcome was likely assured, but to have that senior presence and handling ability is a coup. The forward finished with 13 points, three assist and two rebounds in 23 minutes.
Jonnie West gets an honorary acknowledgement for his shooting and in-game control. West scored a career-high 11 points. He made three three-pointers, also a career high, and was controlled with the basketball and when passing. West, who Huggins says is finally 200 pounds, moved well away from the ball and didn't hesitate to pass when he didn't have the best shot. He worked a few two-man games with the forwards late, bouncing passes into them before looping back off and popping open for a better look. His selection was excellent, and he didn't force the action – save one time when h drove into the bulk of the Long Beach State defense only to be saved by a hack. He made both free throws.