MORGANTOWN - Following a game in which he'd seen Casey Mitchell shoot a layup that went over the backboard, Deniz Kilicli try a 20-foot jumper and Cam Thoroughman get seven assists, Bob Huggins could only shake his head and laugh at most of what had transpired.
"People who don't come and watch this team, they're missing a lot,'' the West Virginia coach cracked. "Honestly, this group does something all the time that makes you say, 'Damn, I've never seen that before.' ''
Here's the thing about these Mountaineers, though: For all of the bizarre that comes from a group that is still largely feeling its way after heavy graduation losses last season, there are still enough old hands around to settle things down when the time is right.
Take Saturday's 74-63 win over previously unbeaten Cleveland State at the Coliseum, for instance.
Through the game's first 32 minutes, the Vikings had West Virginia on the ropes. Although Cleveland State only led a few times, the Vikings were never far behind. With just over eight minutes to play, they tied the game at 55 and had all the momentum in the world.
That was when Huggins went with what these days amounts to his best lineup. Kevin Jones, Casey Mitchell and the surprising Thoroughman were already on the floor. They were joined at that point by John Flowers and Joe Mazzulla, who had been consigned to the bench with three fouls.
Less than three minutes later, Mitchell and Jones each had 3-pointers and Jones a three-point play, Thoroughman had another assist and Mazzulla was orchestrating West Virginia's point-drop defense at the other end of the floor.
The end result was a 10-0 run over those three minutes and the Mountaineers (8-2) were never in trouble again, putting an end to the win streak of the team that was ranked as the No. 1 mid-major in the country.
Yes, this West Virginia team can look pretty unusual at times. But when need be, there are also plenty of steadying influences around.
"They've been through a lot of tough times and tough games last year,'' Jones said, referring specifically to Flowers and Mazzulla. "It's good to have that when you're in a tough situation now. Some of our guys aren't real comfortable with that because they haven't been there. But not those two.''
Of course, Flowers and Mazzulla are not immune from doing the kind of strange things that aren't seen every day. But on Saturday, at least, those were not bizarre things, but invigorating ones.
Mazzulla, for instance, was left wide open early in the game and drained a 3-pointer. It was his first of the season and his first since hitting a shocking one against Kentucky in last year's NCAA Elite Eight game at the Carrier Dome. Those are the only two 3-pointers Mazzulla has made since his shoulder injury at Mississippi just over two years ago.
Flowers? He blocked three shots, and two of them were just wicked. In the first half he swatted a mid-range jumper by Viking star Norris Cole that it's a wonder the ball didn't deflate. Then late in the game he stuffed Trevon Harmon before the ball left Harmon's hand. That was essentially the end of the game there, because a basket would have cut the WVU lead to perhaps six. But Jones drained a 3 on the other end and it was 70-58 with 2:40 to play. Game over.
"It gets the crowd hyped and it gets me hyped,'' Flowers said of the blocks, of which he has 26 in 10 games this season. "I think it sends a message to the other team, too.''
On this day, though, Cleveland State (12-1) was receiving no messages. The deep and talented Vikings just kept fighting back against West Virginia until the door was finally slammed in those final minutes. Cole had 19 points and eight assists and big center Aaron Pogue fought foul trouble to score 14 points in 23 minutes.
But when it counted, the Vikings couldn't stop West Virginia.
"I thought they outplayed us defensively,'' said CSU coach Gary Waters. "We gave up eight 3s today and they were just unnecessary. They were just breakdowns.''
West Virginia got double-doubles from two players - Jones with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Flowers with 10 and 11. Mitchell, reappearing after all but being benched for the last two games, scored 15 points. Mazzulla had eight points, three assists and no turnovers.
And then there was the stunning performance of Thoroughman, who for only the second time in his career played more than 30 minutes, but did it for the second game in a row. This time he had those seven assists, nine points, six rebounds and two steals.
"I don't want to think about where we'd be the last two games without him,'' Jones said of Thoroughman.
As for what's next for the Mountaineers, well, the next game that matters is not for another 10 days, when St. John's comes to the Coliseum for the Dec. 29 Big East opener. But to avoid a long layoff, the Mountaineers on Wednesday night will play host to Walsh in an exhibition game.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.West Virginia 74, Cleveland State 63
Cleveland State (12-1)
Player FG FT R A P
Tim Kamczyc 3-4 0-1 2 1 7
Aaron Pogue 5-8 4-5 6 0 14