Bench Lifts WVU

By John Antonik for
December 07, 2010 09:59 PM
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It was just 24 seconds in to the second half and Bob Huggins had seen enough. Out came West Virginia’s five starters and in went Cam Thoroughman, Jonnie West, Joe Mazzulla, Deniz Kilicli and Dalton Pepper.

In a matter of two minutes that group turned a one-point West Virginia lead into a seven-point advantage. Three minutes after that, the lead swelled to 12, and with 12 minutes left in the game, the margin had grown to 20.

“I thought in the second half for the 6,443 that were here I thought it was very enjoyable,” said Huggins. “We’re going to keep working – we’re a work in progress and we’re going to continue to get better.”

In the end, it was the guys sitting near the end of the bench that lifted West Virginia to an 82-49 victory over Robert Morris Tuesday night at the Coliseum.

The first half was a much, much different story.

West Virginia (6-2) quickly fell behind 5-0 and trailed 18-17 with 8:13 remaining. At halftime, the Mountaineers were only leading by four and Huggins was so disgusted with the way his team was playing that he drew his first technical foul of the season.

“I think we have some guys who got complacent who felt we had to play them to win,” said Huggins. “I’ve always been of the opinion of let’s play guys who really want to play.”

The guys on the bench got the message and when they got into the game, West Virginia got its act together. Quick baskets by Pepper, Kilicli and Mazzulla gave the Mountaineers a 40-33 lead. Back-to-back Kilicli buckets and a 3 by West made it 47-35, and then two baskets each by Pepper and John Flowers pushed the lead to 20 with 11:47 left in the game.

From there West Virginia kept its foot on the gas pedal for the remainder of the game.

“This is what good teams do – when you get people on their heels you just keep knocking them backwards,” said Huggins. “I thought we did that. I thought those guys continued to attack. They continued to defend and they continued to rebound the ball.”

Kilicli scored a season-high 14 points to lead all scorers.

“Deniz finally in the second half started playing with some strength,” said Huggins. “I thought even a couple that he scored they were hanging on his arms and he still got it up through them and scored.”

Flowers added 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Truck Bryant also contributed 12 points to go with six assists.

Eleven different players scored for West Virginia with eight guys getting at least 6 points. Overall, the Mountaineers shot 55.8 percent from the floor, including 63.3 percent in the second half. West Virginia also had a 48-25 advantage on the glass.

“My goal when I came back here was to make this one of the premier basketball programs in the country on a yearly basis – and we were a year ago – and we’ve got some work to do to get there, but I think we can still get there,” said Huggins.

Robert Morris (3-5) shot just 29.8 percent from the floor, including 25 percent in the second half. The Colonials were 6-of-22 (22.2 percent) from behind the 3-point arc. Yann Charles and Coron Williams scored 11 points apiece for Robert Morris.

“That’s a team that went to the NCAA tournament a year ago and will probably go to the NCAA tournament this year,” said Huggins. “Their record is misleading because they’ve had guys out. They’re going to win their league probably and that’s a team that took Villanova right to the end a year. They’ve played close to Pitt, at Pitt, and they beat Duquesne. It’s not a bad team.”

West Virginia returns to action on Sunday at the brand new Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh to face Duquesne. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on CBS College Sports.

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