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West Virginia wins opener over Oakland

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John Flowers scored a career-high 16 points, blocked seven shots and added five rebounds, and Joe Mazzula added 15, as West Virginia topped Oakland 95-71 to to open the Mountaineers 2010-11 season.

Morgantown, W.V.-- Beyond-the-arc and Joe Mazzulla made the perfect 1-2 punch.

With a superb 12 team 3-pointers made, West Virginia (1-0) opened up their first game playing underneath the 2010 NCAA Final Four iwithn an offensive fury, knocking off Oakland (0-1) 95-71.

The Mountaineers went 32 of 63 (50.8%) from the field, getting a team-high 16 points from John Flowers.

“We came out and got to business,” said Flowers, who also finished with five rebounds and a career-high seven blocks from his forward position. “I felt like we established a lead early and we didn't really let up through most of the (first) half.”

West Virginia scored 55 points in the first half, shooting 66.7% from the field, and connecting on 9 of their 12-game 3-pointers.

Jonnie West finished with nine points, scoring three field goals—all 3-pointers—including a long-range bomb with three minutes left in the first half that followed up a Casey Mitchell steal, and capped a 7-0 run to force an Oakland timeout.

“If Casey (Mitchell) and Jonnie are making shots the way they did today, then we're pretty good,” said head coach Bob Huggins.

Mitchell, who started his first game from the shooting guard position, finished with a solid 12 points, going 4 of 9 from the field, while also chipping in with four assists and two steals.

“They came up big,” said Kevin Jones, who finished with the lowest score of the starters with nine points. “We can be a deep team, and we have guys that can step up and pick anybody who is having a bad day up.”

Jones, a first-team preseason Big East All-American selection, went just 4 of 10 from the field, pulling down six rebounds and forcing three steals.

The Mountaineers allowed Oakland to pull within five points with 15:52 on the clock in the second half, thanks to a 12-5 run, which was executed by a barrage of free throws from center and NBA prospect Keith Benson.

Benson terrorized the West Virginia big men, scoring 22 points—16 in the paint—and pulling down 15 rebounds.

West Virginia and the Grizzlies accounted for 38 rebounds each, while Oakland took the advantage in the paint, scoring 38 points.

“We didn't rebound the ball very well, and... well, I'll just say we didn't rebound the ball very well,” said Huggins. That's a pretty good team. I think you saw how good Benson was in the second half.  We doubled him in the first half, and in the second half I wanted our guys to try and learn how to guard.”

Turkish center Deniz Kilicli showed vast improvements, securing his first-career double-double, scoring 12 points, while pulling down 10 rebounds, six on offense.

“I've emphasized rebounding since he got here,” said Huggins of his center. “Deniz is a great kid, he's a smart kid. You've just been bigger than everybody else so you just stand in front of the rim. You just can't do that at this level. But I think he's getting better. I think we're all getting better.”

Despite early foul trouble, Joe Mazzulla helped usher the Mountaineers to a safe second half, scoring 11 of his 15 total points in the second half, including four of his field goals coming off swift drives to the lane with finishes at the rim.

“It felt good to get back out there,” said Mazzulla. “We felt fresh, and the offense was clicking. We just need to find a rhythm on defense, and I think we'll be a pretty good team.

The senior point guard Mazzulla also had seven assists and no turnovers, as well as five rebounds to add to his monstrous night.

Fellow point guard Truck Bryant also suffered from early foul trouble, playing just 17 minutes, but scoring 12 points, going 4 of 6 from the field.

“We foul too much,” said Huggins. “I was really planning on playing both of them in the second half, but that's a good team. I didn't want them to make a run at us and have both of those guys in foul trouble. If I play them both together, they might both foul out.”

The Mountaineers ended the game scoring 22 points, with just three field goals and the rest coming off of foul shots. As a team, West Virginia went 19 of 24 from the charity stripe.

THE BUTLER RETURNS

During the first media timeout of the game, the leader of the Mountaineer team that reached the NCAA Final Four, a teary-eyed Da'Sean Butler, walked to center court and received a standing ovation from the crowd for several minutes.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Points: WVU- Flowers 16; Oakland- Benson 22

Boards: WVU- Kilicli 10; Oakland- Benson 15

Assists: WVU- Mazzulla 7; Oakland- Reggie Hamilton 5

Blocks: WVU- Flowers 7; Oakland- Benson 2

Steals: WVU- Jones 3; Oakland- Benson and Hamilton 2

3-pointers: WVU- West 3 of 6; Oakland Travis Bader 3 of 8

THE EDGE

FG %
: WVU 50.8% - Oakland 38.5%

3-point percentage: WVU (12 of 29) 41.4% - Oakland (4 of 15) 26.7%

Glass: WVU 38 – Oakland 38

Free throws: WVU 19 of 24 (79.2%) - Oakland 17 of 22 (77.3%)

A/TO ratio: WVU 20-13 – Oakland 14-18

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT

“I don't have a computer, I'm computer illiterate.  My Space is where you're not.  We all try to find things that get us rilled up.  In '92 when we went to the Final Four, I had Anthony Bufford who would make stuff up to get everybody fired up.  And then he would start believing himself. That's just how it goes.”


-Huggins on the players getting fired up over an article that stated a possible upset alert for the Mountaineers tonight.

NEXT UP

West Virginia (1-0) will travel to San Juan for the Puerto Rico Tip Off Tournament.  They will face Davidson in the first round on Nov. 18.

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