MORGANTOWN - What was technically a sellout crowd showed up to watch West Virginia pummel Rutgers for the second time in 11 days Saturday, jumping on the Scarlet Knights right from the start and then cruising to a rather physical 84-60 win at the Coliseum.
Those 13,820 fans (all of the 14,000 tickets were sold), however, would have known what was in store had they just listened to Deniz Kilicli 24 hours earlier.
That was when West Virginia's 6-foot-8, 260-pound center correctly predicted that after being blasted by 21 points back on Jan. 4 in Piscataway, Rutgers would come out trying to prove that it was tougher than that. The Knights, he said, would bring it hard and attempt to set the tone early.
"They're going to come here talking on defense, yelling. After every shot they're going to be looking at the bench, all that kind of stuff,'' Kilicli said on Friday "We just have to be tough, too, and we have to match their intensity. And if we do, we'll win by 21 again.''
And after winning not by 21, but by 24 after leading by as many as 30?
"Sorry, people,'' Kilicli said with a smile after the latest rout of the Knights.
Indeed, though, this one played out not only exactly as did the first game between the teams, but exactly as Kilicli had predicted. Rutgers was so overly aggressive that by the first television timeout the Knights had committed six fouls and three turnovers.
It wouldn't get any better, either. The Knights (10-8, 2-3 Big East), who had beaten Connecticut and thumped Pitt in their two dates between games with the Mountaineers, fell behind 14-6 and 28-12 at the start, trailed 48-20 late in the first half and 61-32 with 13 minutes to play. Rutgers managed only one spurt all game long, but even a 16-3 run managed to cut the lead only to 16 points before West Virginia pulled away with its own 17-3 run.
Kevin Jones, despite a 1-for-5 start from the floor in which he scored only four points in the first 14 minutes, still came through with his Big East-leading 12th double-double with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Truck Bryant had 13 of his 18 points in the first 12 minutes, while Jabarie Hinds had 11 points and Keaton Miles the best statistical game of his career with six points and seven assists. Gary Browne had six points, six assists and three steals.
As for Kilicli, he had 14 points in just 22 minutes, but helped set the tone early by matching Rutgers' attempts to play hard. His aggressive post move for a dunk less than five minutes in prompted a technical foul on Rutgers coach Mike Rice for complaining that Kilicli was too aggressive.
Kilicli, of course, delighted in all of it, recalling reports that after Rutgers lost so badly to the Mountaineers (13-5, 4-2) the first time Rice had sent his players to work out with punching bags to toughen them up.
"Maybe they were using speed bags,'' Kilicli said. "They should get the heavy bags out the next time. They were even worse this time.''
Kilicli's attitude also apparently stemmed from a rather innocent remark Rice made two days before the rematch, noting that his players should be upset when looking at the tapes of the first game and seeing West Virginia make six conventional three-point plays and "pounding their chests and embarrassing our little boys at the RAC the other night.'' Rice said it in order to illustrate how his players should feel after being mauled, but Kilicli took it as a slam at the Mountaineers.
"We talked about that, the whole beating our chests thing,'' he said. "We never do that. That's not us. That's really disrespectful.''
OK, so whatever motivation is necessary, right? Then again, it helps that Rutgers almost seems to have a mental block in playing West Virginia, having lost eight in a row to the Mountaineers.
"For some reason again we didn't bring that energy and they seem to bully us,'' Rice said. "They take us out of our offense. Our guys are trying to run away from West Virginia players instead of executing. I give them tremendous credit. They're just tougher than us.''
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, though, doesn't necessarily believe it's just a matter of toughness.
"We've got seven freshmen,'' he said. "Who are we bullying?''
Indeed, in this one there was more than just physical play, although the 47 combined fouls and 61 free throws - WVU had roughly twice as many foul shots and half as many fouls - made it a sometimes tedious display. West Virginia also passed the ball extremely well, particularly in the first half when the Mountaineers shot 57 percent and made 6-of-10 3-point tries in building a 48-22 halftime lead.
"That's when we're at our best, when we pass the ball like that,'' said Jones, who is averaging 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds, both leading the Big East.
If nothing else, Saturday's game, in which the Mountaineers shot 41 free throws (and made just 23), should have been good practice for their next one. On Wednesday comes the yearly game with Marshall at the Charleston Civic Center, annually a physical foul-fest.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.
West Virginia 84, Rutgers 60
Rutgers (10-8, 2-3)
Player FG FT R A P
Dane Miller 5-12 1-2 13 5 12
Gilvydas Biruta 1-5 1-2 4 3 3
Derrick Randall 1-1 0-0 0 0 2
Jerome Seagears 2-3 0-0 2 1 5