The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 28, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - Mountaineers come through in desperate time

MORGANTOWN — There are times, after you’ve done this sports gig for a while, when you wonder what it is that draws you into watching people play kids games into their adult years, be it on the college level when they are just reaching adulthood or professional.

It is not an easy question to answer, until you watch happens when a player or a team is put into a desperate situation, much as West Virginia was in on Sunday while playing at Rutgers.

Most of us working stiffs don’t often find ourselves in desperate situations, which explains why we will flock to the movie theater to see a drama or go to the sporting arenas to watch a hundred dramas unfold each game.

Certainly, the feeling was desperate for the Mountaineers as they took the floor, having lost more than they’ve won over the past few weeks, feeling a trip to the NCAA Tournament slipping away. Individual players were facing their mini-dilemmas, be it John Flowers coming off a scoreless game; Kevin Jones, caught up in a disappointing season, or Deniz Kilicli, having failed to adapt very well to American college style basketball.

True, Rutgers had won only four Big East games but they, too, were facing their own desperation, coming off a game in which they had scored just 37 points and playing at home on Senior Day.

To compound what the Mountaineers were facing was the fact that it was a close game, Rutgers leading some, West Virginia leading some, right up until a moment midway through the second half when the Scarlet Knights ran off seven consecutive points to grab a three-point lead.

At this point Bob Huggins called a time out and brought his team to the sideline to explain to his team just what the situation was and to come up with one of what seemed like 50 successful out of bounds plays that gave his team the lead.

Now came a sequence of events, each seemingly out of desperation, that you do not see on a daily basis and that are exactly why these sporting events never seem to get old.

It started in a familiar fashion, with a missed West Virginia shot, this one on a three-point try by Casey Mitchell, which is something you should make not of. The ball ricocheted to John Flowers, who garnered in the offensive rebound, beginning the offense again.

The ball worked its way around to Mitchell again, standing in virtually the same spot, launching a second three-point shot of the possession. Again it was off, but Kevin Jones was there to retrieve the rebound and start the process again.

This time, the ball wound up back in his arms, where he launched the third errant shot of the possession, this one gathered in by Flowers, just as he had the first missed shot.

Once again the ball worked its way to Mitchell, who had had enough of this falderal and finally buried the 3.

“That possession lasted longer than some Hollywood marriages,” cracked play-by-play announcer Bob Picozzi.

This was how the desperate Mountaineers finally pulled the game out, a game that was so important that after it ended Huggins would tell them that the desperate times were finally over.

“I told them this game effectively puts us in the NCAA Tournament,” Huggins said. “Nine and nine in the Big East, with our RPI and strength of schedule will do it.”

That should take a load off a lot of broad Mountaineer backs and the nice part of it from their point of view is that each and every one of them had something to do with it.

Flowers bounced back for that scoreless game at Pitt with a double-double, scoring 14 points with 10 rebounds, some of the coming on possessions other than the one outlined.

“John Flowers terrific job on offensive glass,” Huggins said. “He got us another five possessions.”

Then there was Kevin Jones, who was a powerful force inside, giving up most of the silliness that came with him trying to do his scoring from the perimeter. He had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

In fact, against Pittsburgh Flowers, Jones, Kilicli and Thoroughman accounted for 16 points. In this game they totaled 35, and if Thoroughman had only four of them but what he did on defense and with his all-around hustle was strictly fabulous.

Toss in 15 points from Truck Bryant and nine assists from the penetrating Joe Mazzulla and you have a total response to the desperate situation.

As it with sports, however, the job is hardly done. The week concludes with Connecticut and Louisville coming to town, the Cardinals having just stunned Pitt. All of a sudden that ninth Big East win isn’t enough.

“We can win 11 Big East games,” Huggins noted. “We need that Coliseum jumping. There could be a five-way tie for seventh place in the Big East this week. If we can win out, we can guarantee a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament, along with 20 wins against the third toughest schedule in the country.”

So here we go again.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at

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