Back On Track

Determined to recover after suffering a pair of Big East losses last week, West Virginia used an early 23-0 run to build a substantial gap, weathered an early second half run and held on for an 88-74 win at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Wednesday night.

The No. 8 Mountaineers (20-5, 9-4) held a lead of as many as 21 points several times in the opening half, as Deniz Kilicli's left-handed hook gave his team a 25-4 lead at the 11:05 mark of the first half.

The hosts would draw within no fewer than 15 points in the opening frame, and WVU carried a 46-28 lead into the locker room at the intermission.

But Providence (12-14, 4-10) had a renewed sense of purpose early in the second half, going on a 14-2 run to start things off. After struggling from the perimeter in the first 20 minutes, the Friars got hot, making eight trifectas in that span.

Even in spite of that, after drawing within six points on a Vincent Council lay-in to make it 48-42 and end that 14-2 run to open the half, PC could not get any closer.

West Virginia responded with a 9-0 spurt of its own, and the visitors would hold a lead of at least double digits from that point forward.

But that was largely because its offense continued to find success, as head coach Keno Davis' squad scored seemingly at will (outscoring WVU 46-42 in the second half after tallying only 28 in the first) in stretches.

That left third-year Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins with a bad taste in his mouth in spite of what, on paper, appears to be a solid road win in Big East play.

"We started the second half bad, and then we didn't end it very well," he said on the Mountaineer Sports Network's radio feed of the game afterwards. "It's hard to figure out how to play some days."

West Virginia didn't help its cause by turning the ball over against the Friars' full-court pressure defense in the final 20 minutes, as the visitors actually committed more turnovers (14) than they forced (11).

"We handled the pressure like there was no pressure there in the first half, but then we come out in the second half and we're very nonchalant," Huggins said. "They're going to make some shots -- when you shoot as many 3s as they do, you're going to make some shots. But that didn't bother me as much as how nonchalant we were with the basketball."

But by dominating the rebounding margin (43-28 overall, including 17 offensive rebounds which led to 24 second-chance points) and forcing Providence to shoot only 37.5 percent from the field (21-of-56), the Mountaineers managed to keep a comfortable lead for almost all of the contest.

Both of those numbers -- as well as WVU's stronger-than-usual 48.4 percent mark from the field (31-of-64) -- were largely the result of perhaps the most complete game from the team's front line all season.

Devin Ebanks led the way, scoring 21 points (just one shy of a season-best, set in his team's Dec. 26 win over Seton Hall) on an efficient nine-of-15 shooting. The sophomore forward added seven rebounds.

Da'Sean Butler's performance was a bit quieter, but he still scored 16 points, pulled down five rebounds and added three assists.

But it was the showing from Wellington Smith that paced the team. He had his first career double-double -- indeed, his first-ever double-digit rebounding game -- by scoring 16 points and pulling in 10 boards. Six of those caroms came on the offensive end.

"I thought Wells was good today," said Huggins. "I thought he really rebounded the ball offensively. Devin was really good, and Da' was Da'. Da gets 16, misses (two) free throws, which he doesn't normally do, and misses a one-footer at the end, or else he gets his 20 like he normally does."

Kevin Jones also helped the front line, scoring nine points and grabbing eight rebounds -- five of which created second-chances for the WVU offense. All told, a staggering 50 of West Virginia's 88 points (itself a season-high for the Mountaineers in a regulation game) came in the paint.

Truck Bryant added 14 points despite being limited to only 12 minutes of play by foul trouble, in large part because he made all 10 of his free throws in the final 1:54 of the game.

For Providence, Jamine Peterson led the way with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Brian McKenzie, Vincent Council and Marshon Brooks all added 13 more apiece.

BlueGoldNews Top Stories