MORGANTOWN - The offensive efficiency Bob Huggins wanted to see from his West Virginia basketball team Wednesday night was largely hit and miss.
Defensively, though, it was hard for Huggins to find much fault. And with Casey Mitchell continuing to put on his one-man scoring show, who needs offensive efficiency?
The Mountaineers put the clamps on Patriot League preseason favorite American on the defensive end and got more than enough offense from Mitchell and Kevin Jones to earn a 71-50 win Wednesday night in front of a rather sparse weeknight crowd of 7,390 at the Coliseum.
The win improves West Virginia to 5-1 heading into a weekend trip to Miami. American lost its second straight to fall to 5-2.
Mitchell had another monster scoring game with 27 points and Jones added a solid 16. Mitchell, who has four straight games of 25 or more points, is averaging 22.3 points on the season and 27.5 over those four games.
He's largely doing it on his own, which allowed Huggins to joke that everyone else might as well just stand around and watch.
"As long as he keeps doing it,'' Huggins said, "they can watch him all they want.''
What is happening with Mitchell's scoring, though, is that it is coming in a variety of ways. Long considered just a shooter, the 6-foot-4 senior had just one 3-pointer against American and only three in the past two games.
But he was 8-for-11 from the floor on a variety of drives and pull-ups, got to the foul line and made 10-of-11 free throws and was consistent from start to finish.
"It's not like he's just scoring 25 points a game, either,'' said point guard Truck Bryant. "He had a block and some steals and he's playing defense. I'm not even surprised about his offense. I'm amazed at the way he's playing defense.''
Wednesday night, that was pretty much true of all the Mountaineers. American shot just 36.7 percent from the floor, missed 12 of its 15 3-point attempts and had trouble all night just getting shots off before the clock expired.
"We did defend pretty good,'' Huggins said, although as always he added a big qualifier. "Our help was good and we did a better job of recovering, but we didn't do a good job of helping and recovering. And we still haven't learned to help, recover and rebound.''
Against American, though, it was all pretty easy because of that initial defense. American missed 10 of its first 13 shots and 6-foot-9 Romanian forward Vlad Moldoveanu was 0-for-5 from the floor as the Eagles fell behind 20-6. But it was more than simply errant shots. Three times in a span of less than five minutes, American either committed a shot-clock violation or had to throw up a desperation shot in order to avoid one.
By the time the Eagles had fallen behind by their biggest margin of the half, 29-13, they had committed more turnovers (seven) than they had field goals (six). It was more of the same in the second half, and by game's end American had trailed by as much as 25 and was never really competitive.
"I'm disappointed with our effort, but I certainly recognize that West Virginia is an awfully good team,'' said American coach Jeff Jones. "They're very physical and I don't think we had enough fight. Even if we did, it could have been a long night.''
Moldoveanu, an All-Patriot League player, led the Eagles with 19 points but was just 7-of-17 from the floor and disappeared when WVU took control early.
For West Virginia, now it's on to Miami this weekend and another chance to see if Mitchell can keep up not only his scoring pace but also how he's getting his points. In the past four games his 3-point attempts have gone from 12 to nine to six to just three Wednesday night. Yet his scoring has stayed fairly even at 31, 27, 25 and 27 points.
Huggins admits that he didn't see that from Mitchell when he recruited him out of junior college two years ago. Mitchell knows he has added something valuable to his game.
"I'm not just going to shoot the 3-ball,'' Mitchell said. "If they're going to come out and play me close, I'll go around them.''
Following the trip to Miami, West Virginia returns for a Tuesday night home game against Robert Morris before playing Duquesne a week from Sunday at the new 19,000-seat Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.
Player FG FT R A P
Vlad Moldoveanu 7-17 3-5 3 1 19
Stephen Lumpkins 3-7 0-0 6 0 6
Troy Brewer 3-9 3-3 4 1 9
Nick Hendra 2-4 2-4 5 1 6
Steve Luptak 0-1 0-0 0 3 0