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Jones quietly productive against Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — By the time West Virginia had finally rallied for and finished off an 87-84 overtime win against Providence Sunday afternoon, it seemed pretty easy to know what to expect when looking at the boxscore.

Truck Bryant would have big numbers after taking over the game at the start of the second half and then making the shots to send it to overtime and then win it. He did, scoring 32 points, two from his career high.

Deniz Kilicli certainly would have strong stats, too. He was a beast in the middle. The same guy who went 2-for-10 inside against Syracuse went 9-for-15 against the Friars. He finished with a career-high 22 points and even made four of his five free throws.

But Kevin Jones was downright awful, right? He couldn't shoot, he didn't rebound and when he had chances to make big plays, he didn't.

And yet look at the boxscore and the guy finished with 20 points, five rebounds, three blocked shots, an assist and just one turnover.

Go figure.

"It's hard for us to win when K.J. plays that bad,'' coach Bob Huggins said. "That's as bad as he's played since probably Mississippi State.''

And yet without Jones, West Virginia almost certainly doesn't win. Yes, he missed five of his six 3-point attempts, and with 12 seconds to play in regulation had just three rebounds.

But his fourth came just then on the offensive glass and he put back a Bryant miss to pull WVU to within one. And then in the overtime he drained an 18-footer that enabled the Mountaineers to keep the lead.

"I think that says what he means to us and what a great competitor and a great kid he is,'' Huggins said of Jones. "He really played bad and got 20 points.''

Jones, for the record, had his ninth straight 20-point game. Only two other Mountaineers have scored 20 or more in more consecutive games — Jerry West and Rod Hundley.

After Providence made 14 of its first 16 shots, Huggins tried to do anything he could to stop the bleeding. He said he finally settled on switching to a matchup zone.

But not many people remembered seeing the Mountaineers in any kind of a zone during the game's 45 minutes. Huggins had a reason for that.

"Well, it's really hard for people to figure out,'' Huggins said. "because we don't know what the hell we're doing.''

Whatever it was worked. After making 14-of-16 to start the game, the Friars made 14-of-39 to end it.

After having played three of four on the road, West Virginia plays four of its next six at home, including rare back-to-back home games twice.

How rare is that? Well, the Mountaineers haven't played consecutive home games since mid-December, when they faced Miami, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Tennessee Tech. The only other time this season WVU has played consecutive home games was three to start the season.

On Wednesday, West Virginia hosts Notre Dame in a 9 p.m. game on ESPNU, then has a noon home game Saturday against Louisville.

After visits to Pitt and Notre Dame, there is a rare Friday night game (9 p.m. on ESPN) against Marquette at the Coliseum, followed by a home game with DePaul four days later. The Mountaineers wrap up the regular season with a Saturday afternoon game in Tampa, Fla., against South Florida on March 3. The Big East tournament begins the following Tuesday in New York.

BRIEFLY: Huggins' explanation for Kilicli's outstanding game was that the big center has started getting offensive rebounds. He had four against the Friars.

"There was a time when I didn't think he'd get that in a season,'' Huggins said.

n Gary Browne and Aaron Brown started the second half in place of Keaton Miles and Jabarie Hinds. Miles didn't even get off the bench in the second half.

Browne, though, had another of his great all-around games, although again under the radar. He finished with nine rebounds, six assists, five points and just one turnover in a career-high 36 minutes.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1


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