PoG: WVU - Providence

It was a game dominated by West Virginia's front line, which helped the team score 50 of its 88 points (a season-high for a regulation game) in the paint. But it was one of the team's two seniors that had one of the best performances of his career and earned our top honors Wednesday night.


Wellington Smith.

Better late than never, right? As his Mountaineer career begins to wind down, the senior forward had a couple of firsts against the Friars.

His 10 rebounds were a career-high, and when added to his 16 points (the second-best scoring total of his career, just behind a 19-point effort earlier this season against Ole Miss), allowed Smith to register his first-ever double-double.

The Summit, N.J., native did a lot of his work on the offensive glass, gathering six of his 10 rebounds on that end of the floor. That helped West Virginia hold a dominant 24-9 edge in second-chance points.

The truly amazing thing was that Smith's performance could have been even better if he hadn't been limited to 29 minutes of play because of foul trouble. Once again, the senior had four fouls at game's end.

But that was the lone mark on an otherwise stellar night -- one that shows what he is capable of whenever opponents fail to block him out and account for him in the mid-range and around the goal (as he was 7-of-7 on two-point field goal attempts).


  • Devin Ebanks.

    Admittedly, it was tough to not give the top honors to the sophomore forward -- but that should do nothing to diminish what was one of his best all-around games of the season.

    His 21 points were just one shy of a season-high (as Ebanks scored 22 in an overtime win against Seton Hall in December). That will likely cool some of the critics, who say he has disappointed in his second season.

    Ebanks can still score, as he showed on Wednesday. Where he's made great strides is in his defensive game, and that was no different against Providence.

    Devin Ebanks
    He collected two steals and a block and was a big reason why the Friars shot only 24.0 percent (6-of-25) in the first half. He often harassed Sharaud Curry, helping force the PC guard into missing all of his 10 field goal attempts.

    The Long Island City, N.Y., native also rebounded, pulling in seven boards. And he did it all while committing only one foul.

    The hand injury Ebanks dealt with early in the season likely effected his shot for longer than anyone associated with the WVU program has let on.

    If that is finally getting back to full health and he can score in multiple ways like he did Wednesday, Ebanks could be in for a spectacular stretch run -- the kind that the Mountaineers could certainly use as they try to advance in March.

  • Making free throws.

    It had been discussed ad nauseum since the last-minute collapse in regulation against Pittsburgh last Friday.

    But in the end, head coach Bob Huggins was right -- there really is nothing fundamentally wrong with his players' free throw shooting. At the Petersen Events Center, they had just missed at all the wrong times.

    West Virginia proved that by going 24-of-29 (82.8 percent) from the line against the Friars.

    And when the hosts seemed poised to turn it into a dogfight, pulling within as few as six points early in the second half, the Mountaineers never faltered. A big reason why WVU kept its opposition at bay was its 15-of-16 (93.8 percent) performance at the charity stripe in the final 20 minutes.

    Credit Truck Bryant with a big chunk of that, as the sophomore guard hit 10-of-10 free throws in the final 2:00 of the game.

    Those are the kinds of performances West Virginia should be able to count on from the foul line. If it can make 70-80 percent of its free throws (and attack the rim enough to actually get to the line), it will always be a hard team to beat.

  • Resilience.

    It was so predictable, even an extremely casual basketball fan (my girlfriend) could see it coming. With WVU up by close to 20 points in the latter stages of the first half, she said Providence would make a big run.

    For once, I was a bit doubtful. The Mountaineers were doing work on both ends of the floor, putting up points almost at will and stifling Friars players.

    But she was right. Head coach Keno Davis' squad came out in the second half and quickly turned an 18-point disadvantage into a mere six-point deficit.

    Instead of allowing the game to turn into a nail-biter, however, West Virginia pushed back. Almost as quickly as the lead had evaporated, it was back to a healthy double-digit advantage after a 9-0 Mountaineer run.

    Sure, there were negatives that head coach Bob Huggins can point to out of this game.

    The team's perimeter defense left a lot to be desired in stretches, and players made a lot of silly fouls down the stretch that made a game that should have been in hand go on for far too long.

    But after taking a pair of tough losses last week, Huggins had to be pleased to see his team respond to that Providence run and come away with an easy win. His offense had perhaps its best game of the season.

    It was largely a performance befitting of a team ranked in the top 10 of the nation. For now, Mountaineer fans will take it.

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