MORGANTOWN - All things considered, it was probably a great idea for West Virginia to stick an exhibition game against Walsh into the long late-December gap in its schedule.
After all, even after just a four-day break, it took the Mountaineers a while to warm up and then to eventually put the Cavaliers away, 86-63, Wednesday night. Imagine had it been 11 days.
Casey Mitchell scored 18 points, Truck Bryant 17 and John Flowers 14 as West Virginia pretty much toyed with Walsh, an NAIA school that is making the jump to NCAA Division II and the place where coach Bob Huggins got his first head coaching job in 1980.
In a game played before a crowd of 7,014 at the Coliseum, Walsh was within nine points, 70-61, as late as the 71/2-minute mark of the game. But when the Mountaineers needed to buckle down - as they had done at the end of the first half - they did and buried the Cavaliers with a 16-0 run.
"I think we kind of treated this like an exhibition game,'' said Kevin Jones, who had just four points and three rebounds. "And eventually we realized that's not something we can do.''
Not that West Virginia went all out in this one, which was, after all, just a scrimmage. Huggins seldom even rose from his feet and did no strategic substituting. With the exception of the final minutes, he merely went with two distinct lineups - starters Bryant, Mitchell, Jones, Dalton Pepper and Deniz Kilicli on one team and Flowers, Cam Thoroughman, Jonnie West, Kevin Noreen and a walk-on point guard on the other. Joe Mazzulla did not play because of a thigh bruise, so Kenny Ross and Craig Carey split the point guard duties with the second unit.
Both teams played virtually the same minutes, with all nine members of the regular rotation logging between 17 and 24 minutes.
Huggins admitted he wasn't much into sideline theatrics or trying to get into his players' heads. In fact, when asked the last time he sat that long in one place he said it was probably after his heart attack.
"But, too, I'm redundant enough,'' he said. "How are you going to say the same things over and over again?''
As for the tactic of playing two distinct teams, Huggins said he just wanted to make sure everyone got minutes on the floor.