PoG: WVU - Seton Hall

In the midst of what was, at times, a lethargic effort from the Mountaineers on both ends of the floor, it was the constant effort and energy provided by one of the team's sophomore forwards that helped make the difference in WVU's 75-63 victory over Seton Hall on Saturday.

PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Kevin Jones.

It was the work of the Mount Vernon, N.Y., native on both ends of the floor that both helped the Mountaineers build a lead of as many as 19 points in the second half -- and helped them hold onto the edge when the visitors clawed back to within three.

Jones' statistics were only slightly above average for him -- he had 16 points and nine rebounds, compared to his typical 13.7 and 7.8, respectively.

But it was his work on the defensive end, where he had three blocks (including two pivotal ones that saw him control the top of the ball enough to force officials to go to the possession arrow) and his energetic play (on a day when players admitted that a less-than-enthusiastic crowd didn't exactly add any spark) that made him stand out.

Devin Ebanks (more on him later) called Jones "the garbage man" after the game for the way the forward seems to always get so many points around the goal after pulling in offensive rebounds.

It's not exactly the most flattering of titles, but it's one that fits. Jones does a lot of the dirty work that makes it possible for other stars like Ebanks and Da'Sean Butler to be at their best.

NET BURNERS:

  • Devin Ebanks.

    Just like last season, the forward seems to be coming on at the right time, as his level of play has improved in the last two to three weeks.

    As head coach Bob Huggins often says, coaching is mostly about getting players to do what they are good at -- and avoid doing the things they aren't good at.

    It's not rocket science, but it is a formula for winning basketball games. Ebanks has focused more and more on doing the things he is incredibly capable of -- rebounding, scoring close to the goal and at mid-range, and playing tenacious defense (even against much smaller, and theoretically, quicker, players).

    He's not taking 3-point field goals like he was earlier this season. He isn't forcing things. He is using his natural athleticism and length to great advantage -- and is even showing the ability to drive to the goal at times when defenders give him the chance.

    Ebanks doesn't have to score 16 points per game (as he did against Seton Hall) to be an important part of his team. But it only helps those around him when he does score points.

    And Huggins will most certainly take the six offensive rebounds the Long Island City, N.Y., native pulled down (helping WVU to a 21-13 edge in second-chance points) -- as well as the four assists and two steals he managed.

  • Wellington Smith.

    The other -- and often forgotten -- member of West Virginia's front-line continues to play at a high level as his senior year winds down.

    Smith had eight points and seven rebounds (matching Ebanks' six offensive boards). He added two steals on defense while managing to avoid the foul trouble that has plagued him at times throughout the season.

    Offensively, he dished out a trio of assists.

    While his shot wasn't quite as accurate as it had been at times earlier in the season, he still did enough to make defenders account for him.

    Perhaps his best sequence was a steal of Jeff Robinson, followed on the other end of the floor by a pretty jumper from the baseline that gave the Mountaineers their biggest lead of the game at 47-28 with 16:18 to go.

    Smith isn't depended upon to be a top scorer -- his eight points were more than Huggins likely expects from the senior.

    But if the Summit, N.J., native can become yet another force on the glass (he averages only 3.8 boards per game) while playing his typically solid defense, it could give opposing coaches nightmares.

  • Attacking the goal.

    After hearing Huggins talk for most of the season about the fact that his players were settling for too many jump shots -- and, thus, not getting to the foul line enough -- they answered the call against the Pirates.

    WVU shot 38 times from the charity stripe on Saturday -- compared to only 15 for Seton Hall. Encouragingly, they hit a solid (if not spectacular) 71.1 percent of those free throws (27-of-38).

    To contrast, the Mountaineers shot "only" 18 times from 3-point range.

    That helped, because players like Da'Sean Butler (4-of-12 from the field, 1-of-6 from 3-point range) and Truck Bryant (2-of-10 overall and 1-of-4 from beyond the arc) were struggling.

    The offensive output of players who score the majority of their points closer to the goal -- like Jones (16 points), Ebanks (16), Smith (eight), and even Deniz Kilicli (six) and Joe Mazzulla (five) made up for that deficiency.

    And getting two players in double-digits in terms of free throws attempted (Butler and Ebanks) also helps get points on the board when the jump shots aren't falling.

    West Virginia is too good of a team to allow the on-again, off-again nature of jump shooting cause it to have an early exit in March. But it will have to continue to pound the paint and get to the foul line like it did Saturday to overcome the struggles from the field that are inevitable in basketball.


  • BlueGoldNews Top Stories