By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
December 23, 2009
BOX SCORE | UPDATED SEASON STATS | PHOTOS
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Wellington Smith scored a career-high 19 points to lead sixth-ranked West Virginia to a 76-66 victory over 15th-ranked Mississippi Wednesday night at the WVU Coliseum.
||Wellington Smith scores two of his career-high 19 points to lead West Virginia to a 76-66 victory over 15th-ranked Ole Miss Wednesday night in Morgantown.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
Smith, who came into the game averaging just 4.6 points per game and shooting 5 of 16 from 3-point distance for the year, hit four 3s during a four-minute stretch to turn a tight game into a double-digit lead for the Mountaineers.
“We kind of drift off sometimes,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, who is now in sole possession of 23rd place on the NCAA all-time victories list with 648. “We’ve just got to become more consistent, particularly at the offensive end.”
Another 3 from the wing by Casey Mitchell gave West Virginia a 46-36 lead with 14:24 remaining. Smith then found a cutting John Flowers for a lay up to give the Mountaineers a 48-36 lead just ahead of the 12-minute media timeout.
Ole Miss (10-2) scored seven of the next eight points to cut West Virginia’s lead to six, 49-43, when Smith drained his biggest 3 of the game with 11:05 remaining to put the Mountaineers back up by nine.
“Wells has really shot it well in practice,” said Huggins.
Smith finished the game 5 of 6 from behind the arc and 7 of 9 overall from the floor. Smith got plenty of help.
Devin Ebanks scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Huggins joked during his post-game radio show that Ebanks nearly had a triple-double with seven turnovers.
“If he just wouldn’t dribble through three guys he would have had a heck of a game,” Huggins said. “I don’t know why he does that dribbling thing because he passes the ball so well. Devin and Da’Sean (Butler) are our two best passers.”
Jones scored 12 and grabbed nine rebounds while Butler and Mitchell scored 9 points each. Butler sat the remaining 10 minutes of the first half after picking up his second foul.
“Casey gets eight rebounds and I thought Casey was playing,” Huggins said. “Eight rebounds are a bunch from a 2-guard and when he’s out there he just stretches the defense. You’ve got to go out there and guard him.”
The Rebels came into the game sixth in the country and first in the SEC in scoring offense averaging 85.4 points per game. Ole Miss’ two top scorers Chris Warren and Terrico White scored 19 points on a combined 7 of 30 shooting. Mississippi was 5 of 24 from 3-point distance and just 36.4 percent overall for the game.
Zach Graham came off the bench to lead the Rebels with 14 points.
“Defensively we were a world’s better than what we were last Saturday,” said Huggins.
The Mountaineers had a 52-33 advantage on the glass with 22 offensive rebounds.
“I thought we rebounded the ball today,” said Huggins. “We did a great job rebounding the ball. Devin is back rebounding the ball and when he does his thing I think he helps everybody out.”
West Virginia committed 18 turnovers but was much better handling the pressure than it was last Saturday at Cleveland State when the Mountaineers had to hang on for an 80-78 victory.
“We still turned it over way too many times,” said Huggins. “We dribbled too much. We’ve just got to stop dribbling so much. That’s not what we are. That’s what they are. They are really good at dribbling and penetrating, kicking and making plays.
“Our game is more curling things to the goal, back cutting and making step-in shots like Wells did today,” said Huggins.
WVU is now 9-0 to begin the season for just the sixth time in school history.
West Virginia has a difficult turnaround facing Seton Hall Saturday in a 3:30 p.m. game that will be televised nationally on CBS. The Pirates are now 9-1 after Tuesday night’s 94-56 victory over Navy.
“They have basically everybody back and they’ve added Keon Lawrence and Herb Pope … they’ve really added a bunch of good players,” Huggins said. “I think their problem last year was they just weren’t deep enough. They’ve got depth now.”