PoG: WVU - Cincinnati

We're making an executive decision and changing things up, because two Mountaineers equally deserved our top billing today. Instead of sharing our Player of the Game honors, however, we're going to give out a pair of PoH (that's "Player of the Half" for those keeping score at home) awards.


Cam Thoroughman.

Who saw that performance coming?

Thoroughman bested his previous career high in the first 20 minutes of Saturday's game, scoring seven points -- including five of WVU's nine unanswered points after head coach Bob Huggins used a mass substitution to change the look of his line-up after the Bearcats had built a 13-point lead.

Typically known for just collecting an occasional garbage goal at the rim off a missed shot, Thoroughman showed signs of having a big day when he scored his first points on a mid-range jump shot.

He proceeded to add five more by halftime, bettering his previous career-high of six points, set twice (in back-to-back games against Radford and Ohio State in 2008).

But it was his work on the defensive end against UC's Yancy Gates -- and his work to outmuscle the Bearcats' reserve forward kept Gates from grabbing a single rebound just a year after he torched WVU to the tune of 11 boards.

Thoroughman's performance should be a sign that fans and opponents should never sleep on even the most seldom-used of reserves. These guys are Big East basketball players for a reason -- and most all of them are capable of contributing when the opportunity presents itself.


Kevin Jones.

Jones might have earned our top honors outright, but he only had two rebounds. That, combined with the way Thoroughman's first half essentially kept WVU within reach, made sure both players split the top billing.

But make no mistake -- Jones was a massive key in getting West Virginia over the proverbial hump in time to finish its comeback. He scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the second half.

The sophomore started the 14-2 run that turned a 50-42 deficit into a 56-52 WVU lead with a 3-pointer. He also added a lay-up during the spurt off a nice feed from Devin Ebanks (more on him later).

Jones was highly efficient in a game where each possession mattered. He hit six of his eight field goal attempts -- including a 3-of-4 mark from 3-point range.

What Thoroughman gave to the Mountaineers in the first half, Jones gave in the second. Their performances were a significant reason why WVU pulled out a win in a game that was of pivotal importance for Big East Tournament seeding.


  • Making a wholesale substitution when it was needed.

    Huggins was none too pleased when his players gave up easy baskets in transition on back-to-back possessions. So, with his team down by 13 points, he called for a quick timeout and changed his line-up.

    All of it.

    Gone were senior leaders Da'Sean Butler and Wellington Smith. Gone was Jones, as well as reserves Casey Mitchell and Joe Mazzulla.

    In their place came Thoroughman, Deniz Kilicli, John Flowers, Truck Bryant and Devin Ebanks.

    The 9-0 run that followed turned a game that looked like it might get out of hand into a dogfight by halftime. West Virginia would do enough to win that fight in the second half.

    Commend Huggins for making the move, showing his team that no player is safe from criticism -- and time on the bench, if it's so deserved.

    The starters seemed to respond in the second half. The aforementioned Jones broke out, while Smith and Butler scrapped and clawed for everything they could get.

    On top of giving starters a kick in the rear, it also served to give some other players a bit of experience at being in a game when they were expected not just to survive -- but to thrive.

    They did. And that has to be a relief to Huggins.

  • Devin Ebanks.

    It wasn't a staggering performance as one watched it. But by game's end, the sophomore forward had yet another double-double, with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

    He showed nice touch in earning two assists as well -- flipping a sweet pass while playing at the point to a wide-open Jones for a lay-up as part of WVU's game-changing 14-2 run in the second half.

    Notably, seven of Ebanks' boards also came in the final 20 minutes -- helping West Virginia outrebound its opposition by 11 in the second half.

    Both coaches agreed afterwards on one thing -- that particular statistic was likely the key to the outcome. Once again, credit Ebanks for coming on when it counts.

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