Worried? Me? Never!
West Virginia, overcoming a woeful 10-0 deficit, thrashed Morgan State 77-50 in step #1 of WVU's National Championship Run. As bad as the first five minutes were for the Mountaineers, the next 35 were even worse for the Bears, as West Virginia went on run after run to blister their opponent throughout both halves. Kevin Jones put it best:
"We always let teams get off to those huge leads and let them get confidence and that's where it hurts us," Jones said. "I'm just glad we could come out and stomp on them and not let them back into the game."
While the Mountaineers did fall behind early, you never quite got the feeling that they weren't going to show up today. Or at least I didn't -- I can't say the same for some of the people sitting near me at the bar. I was actually afraid one woman was going to ask for a refund of the beer she had taken three drinks from and just leave. Luckily, she sat her fat ass back down and watched the good guys methodically work Morgan State's zone (which would be a great euphemism if I was actually that clever).
Kevin Jones, Devin Ebanks, and Joe Mazzulla were definitely the catalysts today, with honorable mention to Casey Mitchell, who has gone from least favorite Mountaineer among the entire fanbase to quietly effective. It was especially pleasing to see an offense work without the Herculean efforts of Da'Sean Butler, who was doubled and often held in check, scoring only nine points.
For those that didn't watch the game, it's hard to properly translate just how important Mazzulla was today. With him running the offense, we look potent and meticulous, finding open shots and drives on most possessions. His shoulder looks to be in good shape, and he's a great spark off the bench when he finally enters.
Unfortunately, with Truck, it's just haphazard mess, like a toddler trying to fingerpaint. 1 in a million, sure, you'll get the Mona Lisa, but what about those other 999,999 times? When Truck plays SG, the offense works alright, but when he's on the floor sans Mazzulla, very little good happens. Since he's gone cold shooting, he has lost the scoring ability that made him potentially valuable over Mazzulla. You don't want to rock the boat too much at this point in the season, but if opening up 10 point deficits is the result of Truck starting, maybe you just pull the plug and start Joe.
Beyond our PG "situation," it was good to see Ebanks come back to life today. Sure, he's not at the production point that many thought he would be at the beginning of the season, but he contributed over 10 points for the first time since the end of the regular season. That will be especially important as teams key on Big Shot Da' throughout the tournament. He was also his usual rebounding hawk, grabbing a massive 16 boards.
And then there's Kevin Jones, who like Devin has started to find the touch that has eluded him for the second half of the season. When WVU was floundering early, it was Jones who dropped nine straight points to key the game-long run that eventually broke Morgan State. This kind of balance, between Butler, Ebanks, Mazzulla's leadership, and the occaisional Mitchell three, will make it very difficult for any team trying to defend the Mountaineers throughout the tournament.
So, great win -- let's do it all again Sunday.