Patchwork Effort

With a pair of regular starters held out of action due to injury, the WVU basketball team started slowly on Saturday night. The No. 6 Mountaineers woke from their early slumber and pulled away for a 69-43 victory over Coppin State at the WVU Coliseum.

WVU head coach Bob Huggins said forward Devin Ebanks and guard Casey Mitchell were both held out of the line-up due to injury concerns.

Ebanks has been nursing a hand injury since a late dunk in West Virginia's win over Texas A&M at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif. Huggins said that Mitchell began to experience swelling in his knee after returning from that trip out west.

"They drained Casey's knee, and he had a bunch of fluid in it," Huggins said. "Dev's hand is still sore. We have some time where they can hopefully both get healed up."

With that pair of regulars held out of action, a patchwork line-up struggled early with the fiesty Eagles. Coppin State led for most of the first 10 minutes, but momentum began to swing later in the opening half.

John Flowers, inserted into the starting line-up as a result of the issues with Ebanks and Mitchell, hit a jump shot to give WVU a 15-13 lead with 9:29 to go in the half.

While that was hardly an insurmountable margin -- especially considering the poor play of the Mountaineers to that point -- the Coppin State players and coaches did little to help their own cause.

After Flowers missed a long jumper on West Virginia's next possession, a long rebound caromed out beyond the 3-point arc. WVU point guard Joe Mazzulla corralled the ball just before the Eagles' Lenny Young could get to it. Each player's momentum carried them into each other, and a blocking foul was called on Young.

Displeased with the decision of the referee, Young rose to his feet and appeared to scream an obscenity in the direction of the man who made the call. That drew another whistle for a technical foul on Young.

Incensed at either the original blocking call or something that had happened previously, Coppin State coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell also took the opportunity to lambast the refs. He, too, earned a technical foul for his efforts.

Da'Sean Butler calmly sank all four technical free throws that ensued (the rest of the team was only 3-of-10 from the charity stripe in the opening half), quickly giving WVU a 19-13 edge.

Ultimately, the Mountaineers would close the half on a 22-6 run and take a 33-19 lead into the locker room.

The Eagles would fail to draw within fewer than 12 points in the second half, allowing Huggins and company to coast to their seventh win of the season.

This game recap presented by The Book Exchange

For the second straight game, that "W" was added to the Mountaineers' ledger largely as a result of their work on the defensive end and on the offensive glass.

The home team out-rebounded Coppin State 40-26 overall. A whopping 24 of those WVU rebounds came on the offensive end, leading to a 24-2 edge in second-chance points for Huggins' squad.

Kevin Jones led that effort, garnering career highs in both points (22) and rebounds (11). Of Jones' boards, eight came on the offensive glass. The sophomore added two assists, two blocks and three steals.

"We're going to do that all the time, I hope," said Huggins. "We work at it. We spend a lot of time at it. Both just getting where I want them to go and then technique. It's something that we emphasize a lot. It's something we practice a lot. I'd really be disappointed if we didn't rebound it."

Defensively, the third-year West Virginia coach countered a move by Mitchell that called for his point guards to hold the ball near mid-court and burn much of the shot clock before even beginning to run an offense, thus slowing the pace of the game, by going to a 1-2-2 zone pressure defense.

It was an atypical move from the veteran coach, who typically favors a half-court man-to-man approach. But the ploy paid dividends, as the Eagles turned the ball over 20 times, leading to 25 WVU points off those giveaways.

"You have to have patience defensively," Huggins said. "Sometimes, when (the slow-down game) happens, people try to make ill-advised decisions going after the ball. I think we were pretty solid."

"I thought (the zone pressure) was pretty good. It's better when we have our bigger lineup out there because we're so long. It's hard to throw over or around them because of our length, especially when the guards are small."

"We're going to be a team that, down the road, can play multiple defenses."

That helped the Mountaineers overcome a poor shooting night. The team was 23-of-58 shooting overall, including an abysmal 4-of-26 success rate (15.4 percent) from 3-point range.

Only two WVU players other than Jones tallied double figures. Butler overcame a 0-of-4 performance from beyond the perimeter to tally 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Truck Bryant added 11 points, but he hit only two of his eight attempts from beyond the arc.

"It happens," Huggins said. "You have days like that. I've never talked to anybody that knows why it happens, but it happens. Sometimes we didn't get the ball up there, but sometimes it was there and just rolled out."

"That's what I told our guys at halftime. The day I got here, I told people we were going to be able to guard and rebound. Could you imagine how bad it would be if we couldn't rebound? That's the only thing you can do when you don't make shots."

The veteran coach said he believed that some of his team's offensive struggles could even be connected to how well so many players have shot the ball early this season, both in practices and games.

"I think because we have shot the ball pretty well, I thought we didn't do a good job attacking their zone," Huggins said. "We had good looks, but when they're not going in, you've got to figure another way to get the ball in the goal."

The Mountaineers will have a week off to work on that in practice, as the team next takes to the road to battle Cleveland State next Saturday.

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