WVU head coach Bob Huggins has said it is not the job of his sophomore forward to dominate in the scoring column. The Mountaineers ask him to do enough other things, Huggins has said.
On Wednesday, he did all of those other things rather well. He played solid defense on whatever Panthers player he found himself guarding -- from point guard Ashton Gibbs all the way to center Gary McGhee.
He rebounded the basketball -- what Huggins has said he DOES expect Ebanks to do -- a whopping 16 times. And he did manage to contribute seven points and three assists.
Admittedly, Ebanks shot still isn't spot on. The Long Island City, N.Y., native made only three of his 10 field goal attempts and missed one of his two free throws. He also committed four turnovers.
But with the wrap off his injured left hand for the first time all season, Ebanks showed why he was such an asset to West Virginia down the stretch last season. If he can continue to play like he did on Wednesday, that bit of history could quite easily repeat itself.
Welcome to the Big East, young man.
The Turk was as good as advertised -- if not better -- in scoring nine points in only seven minutes of action.
His stirring start to his college career was the kind of stuff they make those mushy, sentimental pieces on ESPN about. After being forced to the bench (for home games) and to watch from his couch (for road games) for the first 20 contests of the season, Kilicli was unleashed on Wednesday.
And, like an animal forced to go without food for days on end, the big man from Istanbul was ravenous.
He called for the ball almost every trip down court. He received it often, scoring baskets on his first three collegiate shots.
But those weren't just ordinary lay-ins. Kilicli first made an impressive left-handed hook shot that rolled around the rim before falling. He then switched hands and made an even more staggering hook shot from his right side.
Finally, he scored on a tip-in of a Da'Sean Butler miss. He was showered by chants of "Turkey! Turkey!" from the WVU student section -- some members of which even waved Turkish flags in honor of Kilicli.
It's true -- the big guy has some work to do on his rebounding and defensive play. But, for at least one night, who cares? It was a performance that had to have beyond the most optimistic prognostications of Mountaineer followers.
And for Kilicli, it may have almost been worth waiting 20 games for.
Jones struggled mightily in the first half. His performance in the final 20 minutes was something to behold -- and it helped the Mountaineers pull away from their arch-rivals.
The forward had only three points when the teams went to the locker room at halftime. But he was a different player in the second half, scoring 13 points (six of which came on six attempts from the free throw line).
Notably, Jones also was more active on the glass down the stretch, grabbing five more rebounds in the second half after an uncharacteristically low one board in the first 20 minutes.
He made a key 3-pointer at the 6:32 mark, pushing his team's lead back to double digits at 56-44. Pittsburgh would never really test the hosts from there.
It's no coincidence that when Jones is playing well, West Virginia is typically playing well. His second half play was a big reason why the Backyard Brawl was won by an uncharacteristically large margin.
When the Mountaineers were assessed two technicals (one on the crowd) to Pittsburgh's one with 5:14 to play, it could have been a momentum changer.
A lengthy delay had ensued in the contest -- approaching 10 minutes -- and it could have given the Panthers a chance to rally together and stop the bleeding.
But with referees working to make sure things didn't get out of hand, WVU made the most of its opportunities at the free throw line -- helping make sure Pitt would never come back within striking distance.
In that last 5:14, West Virginia was a perfect 10-of-10 from the line. That performance made sure gave Jamie Dixon and company never mustered enough confidence to truly think they could come back and earn an upset on the road.