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WVU spreads the wealth in win over DePaul

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John Flowers led West Virginia's balanced offense with 15 points and the 25th-ranked Mountaineers never trailed in beating DePaul 82-71 on Saturday.

West Virginia 82, DePaul 71
WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, WV
Having watched his Mountaineers lose four of seven games entering play Saturday due to a sputtering offense, WVU coach Bob Huggins told the Charleston Daily, "We can't shoot." Downtrodden DePaul, last in the Big East in defense, proved to be an elixir for WVU's stroke. Making crisp passes and taking high-percentage shots close to the basket, the Mountaineers bested the Blue Demons 82-71 at the WVU Coliseum. John Flowers, Joe Mazzulla, Deniz Kilicli, Truck Bryant and Casey Mitchell all scored in the double-digits for WVU (16-8, 7-5).

“I was nervous as can be before the game,” Huggins said. “This is one we had to have.”

Coming off back-to-back losses to Villanova and Pitt, WVU avoided dropping three straight for the first time during Huggins' tenure by distributing the ball and finding the open man near the glass. Shooting 52.8 percent from the field, the Mountaineers registered 23 assists on 28 made shots. WVU outscored DePaul 40-24 in the paint.

“I thought we controlled the tempo pretty well and did a pretty good job against their pressure,” Huggins said.

WVU led by as many as 16 points in the first half and went to the locker room up 47-34, establishing a season high in first-half scoring. While the Blue Demons (6-18, 0-12) surged back during a January 4 home game versus the Mountaineers, nearly erasing a 14-point deficit in the second half before dropping the game 67-65, WVU held on tight in this one. DePaul got within seven points after a Jeremiah Kelly 3-pointer made it 74-67 with 2:48 to play, but the Mountaineers scored the next six points as Bryant hit a pair of free throws and Mazzulla converted four foul shots.

Flowers paced WVU with 15 points, making a pair of 3-pointers on 6-of-11 shooting while also extending his Big East lead with three blocks. Mazzulla was highly efficient running the Mountaineers' offensive attack, posting 12 points, six assists and six rebounds. Mazzulla went a perfect six-for-six from the line for WVU, who shot 20-of-25 (80 percent) from the stripe overall.

Bryant and Mitchell, both struggling to knock down shots recently, scored 11 apiece. Bryant hit all four of his free throws and went 3-of-8 from the field, notching six helpers to boot. Mitchell, just 2-of-13 in his first two games back from suspension, drilled two 3-pointers while hitting four of his six shots. Dalton Pepper had nine points and Kevin Jones scored eight. Cam Thoroughman, never a scoring threat, had four points but also had six rebounds and five assists.

Freshman Brandon Young led the youthful Blue Demons with 14 points. Jimmy Drew added 13, Krys Faber went five-for-five shooting while getting 11, and Tony Freeland also scored 11 points for DePaul. Cleveland Melvin, the Big East's leading freshman scorer, had a quiet night offensively with nine points but did grab a team-high seven boards for the Blue Demons.

DePaul shot 51 percent from the field, but they struggled from the line (13-of-21, 61.9 percent) and had several players in early foul trouble. Faber was called for his third less than eight minutes into the game. The 6-10 junior played just 15 minutes as the Mountaineers crowded the basket. The Blue Demons have now lost 25 straight Big East contests and have dropped 27 in a row against ranked teams.

WVU moves up to sixth in the Big East conference with the win. With teams jumbled in the middle of the standings, the Mountaineers would have fallen to 11th place had they lost to DePaul.

Still, Huggins sees room for improvement ahead of a Valentine's Day match with Jim Boeheim's Orange.

“Sixty two and a half percent,” Huggins said, referring to DePaul's second-half shooting percentage. "I’m not very happy about it now, but we’ll be over it by tomorrow and get ready for Syracuse.”

PLAY OF THE GAME
Deniz Kilicli took a Joe Mazzulla pass with his back to the basket, turned right and hit a sky hook to make it 54-39 WVU with 14:49 remaining in the second half.
 
TEAM STATS
FG%: WVU 52.8, DEP 51.0
FT%: WVU 80.0, DEP 61.9
3-PT: WVU 46.2, DEP 44.4
RBS: WVU 28, DEP 24

LEADERS
Scoring: WVU- Flowers 15; DEP Young 14
Rebounds: WVU- Mazzulla, Thoroughman 6; DEP Melvin 7
Assists: WVU- Bryant, Mazzulla 6; DEP Bizoukas, Drew, Melvin 3
Blocks: WVU- Flowers 3; DEP Faber, Melvin 1
Steals: WVU- Jones, Mazzulla, Thoroughman 1; DEP Drew 2

NEXT UP
Ranked 18th in RPI and fourth in strength of schedule, the Mountaineers have played a punishing slate of games. And it's not going to get any easier for WVU: five of the club's six remaining contests come against currently-ranked opponents, including a Valentine's Day showdown at the Carrier Dome against No. 12 Syracuse at 7 p.m. The Mountaineers might be catching the Orange at the right time, though. Jim Boeheim's squad started the season 18-0 and entered mid-January ranked in the top five, but Syracuse has lost six of its last eight games and sits at 7-6 in Big East Conference play. DePaul will again look to end its Big East woes while taking on Providence at 9 p.m. Thursday.

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