Flowers Blooming

  • By John Antonik
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  • January 15, 2011 01:56 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - John Flowers did the impossible during Thursday night's 93-63 win over Providence.

One, he held one of the best scorers in the country, Marshon Brooks, to just 13 points on 5 of 15 shooting. And, two, West Virginia's defensive stopper poured in a career-high 24 points on 10 of 12 shooting. Flowers blocked five shots, handed out five assists and made three steals.

It's one thing to have a career-night on one end of the floor but both ends? Which is more impressive? West Virginia coach Bob Huggins isn't sure.

"I think what John did was terrific and was a hard thing because Brooks is a good player and if they are not the best, then one of the best pump-fake teams," said Huggins. "I thought John did a great job of staying down when he needed to stay down and at the same time, made some plays off the ball for us."

Flowers admitted afterward that he was somewhat surprised he was able to score so much because most of his focus was on stopping Brown, who brought 24 points-per-game scoring average and a streak of 11 straight 20-point games to the Coliseum on Thursday night.

"My mindset was to come in and stop him on defense," Flowers said. "He's a great player. I just made it an objective to shut him down and go out there and play my hardest."

In Flowers it appears Huggins has another defensive stopper much like Devin Ebanks was for the Mountaineers last year. Ebanks was the guy who kept last year's Big Ten player of the year Evan Turner from making a field goal in the second half during West Virginia's come-from-behind win over 21st-ranked Ohio State in Morgantown last year.

It didn't matter who the team's best player was - point guard to center - Huggins always had Ebanks on their best player. This year, Flowers has been anointed that role.

"He's guarded everybody," Huggins said. "Against Cleveland State he guarded their point guard (Norris Cole) who is really a heck of a player. He's guarded everybody's best player."

For the record, Cole got 19 points against Flowers but needed 21 shots to do it.

What makes Flowers exceptional is his tremendous athletic ability and timing. But according to his coach, Flowers' best trait is his willingness to work, listen and improve.

"He works. John is always in the gym," said Huggins. "John loves being in the gym and he always has. You are talking about a guy who couldn't make a shot if his life depended on it when he first got here, but he worked at it - and he's listened. He's coachable and he's gotten better because he wants to."

Flowers is one of the last recruits inherited from the John Beilein era, his length and athleticism perfectly suited for the wing in Beilein's 1-3-1 zone defense. Flowers wasn't a prolific scorer in high school but the others things in his game were already there.

That's why when Beilein left for Michigan Huggins made it a priority to go over to John's home in Waldorf, Md., and reassure him that he fit what they were going to do.

"He was a high school center who was a rebounder and a shot blocker and has made tremendous strides," Huggins said. "If somebody would have said John Flowers is going to be in the backcourt breaking the press three-four years ago, you would have said we don't have a chance.

"He's just been so much better with his ball security; his ball handling has gotten better," said Huggins. "His knowledge of where the ball is supposed to go has gotten better - he's always been able to run and jump …"

… And defend, and now, score. Flowers has boosted his scoring average to 8.7 points per game, he's shooting nearly 49 percent from the floor and his free throw shooting, once an abomination, is now among the best on the team. Heading into Sunday's game against Purdue, Flowers has the third-best free throw shooting percentage on the team at 74%, which is the best among WVU's bigs.

Once again, good old-fashioned hard work is the reason.

"All these guys were around Da'Sean (Butler) and a lot of them were around Joe (Alexander) and they saw work ethic and they saw what it takes to be a good player," said Huggins. "John is a guy who has really taken it to heart."

For his part, Flowers is just happy the Mountaineers have been able to dig themselves out of its 0-2 hole in Big East play by winning their last three against DePaul, Georgetown and Providence.

"We just want to get on a roll," he said. "We know that we lost some games we very well could have won."

West Virginia (11-4) will get a pretty good gauge of how well they are playing Sunday afternoon when eighth-ranked Purdue (15-2) comes to the Coliseum for a 1:30 p.m. CBS matchup. The Boilermakers are the first top 10-ranked non-conference opponent to come to the Coliseum since No. 2 UCLA was defeated, 70-65, on Feb. 2, 2007.

Flowers remembers the beat-down Purdue put on West Virginia last year in West Lafayette.

"They smacked us at their house last year when we played them," he said. "The fans were crazy and I hope that we have a packed house where our fans are crazy too."

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