By Mike Whiteford
For the Gazette
By hurrying out to a big lead early, West Virginia earned itself a chance to tweak the countless deficiencies that are inevitable in November, especially for a team that includes nine freshmen.
Playing before a near-capacity crowd of 10,122 at the Charleston Civic Center, the Mountaineers needed little time to break the game open and breeze past Morehead State 83-48 Tuesday night.
The Charleston visit was a welcome change, said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, who has not been happy with early-season attendance in Morgantown.
"I like playing here,'' said Huggins. "I like being here in this part of the state where people can see us. The people have been great. I'm the one who said we need to play a couple games here. We've played a couple games here every year I've been here. I'm not sure we shouldn't play a few more here.''
Kevin Jones led WVU with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Darryl Bryant added 14 points and Deniz Kilicli and Gary Browne contributed 10 points each. Jabarie Hinds scored eight points and, along with Browne, led the team with five assists.
The Mountaineers (3-1) use eight freshmen and six scored, perhaps portending good things.
"I definitely think they're starting to get it,'' said Jones.
Huggins agreed but understandably saw need for improvement.
"We took better care of the ball. Our spacing was so much better,'' he said. "We weren't standing on top of each other. We looked up the floor better. We're still not very good at it, but we're getting better. We're guarding the ball a little bit better. Our understanding is better. We still give too much penetration. But when you get extended like that, you're going to give penetration.''
Added Hinds, a freshman, "I felt today we played with much more confidence, and we played much, much harder than we did in the last few games.''
Freshman Paul Williamson, a Harts native and Logan High graduate, came off the bench in the second half and prompted the night's loudest roar by hitting his only two shots, both 3-pointers. In two games, he's 4-of-6 on 3s.
Improvement, Huggins emphasized, is especially vital in an upcoming stretch that includes games against Akron, Mississippi State and Kansas State.
"We need to continue to get better,'' he said. "We've got a heckuva stretch coming up. Akron's good. And we're in a stretch of games where we need to win. We need to win.''
After falling behind 4-3, West Virginia (3-1) scored 17 consecutive points for a 20-4 lead with 13:28 left and led 39-22 at halftime, despite hitting just 9-of-21 first-half free throws. The Mountaineers hit 10-of-10 in the second half to finish 19-for-31.
The first-half foul-shooting problems did not go unnoticed.
"I don't think our concentration was very good,'' said Huggins. "We chart everything [in practice]. They make a minimum of 50 free throws in practice, and the last couple of days they made 100. We don't have anybody shooting in practice less than 72 percent. And Gary Browne is shooting in the high 80s in practice. It's kind of like getting the measles; it spreads. One guy gets up there and clanks one, and all of a sudden it's in the back of your mind. But if you get up there and make a couple, then it's in your mind that we're going to have a good day.''
Said Kilicli, "We were way better [in practice] than we were today. Every time we come here, we always miss shots. I don't know why.''
In their only glimmer of hope, the Eagles (1-3) rallied cut the deficit to 13 points at 33-20 with 5:02 remaining in the first half. Morehead's Terrence Hill, who entered the game with a team-leading 13.3 scoring average, led the Eagles with 24 points, including 6-of-11 from 3-point distance.
Morehead attempted only five free throws and made four.
Reach Mike Whiteford at mikewhitef...@wvgazette.com.
West Virginia 83, Morehead St. 48
Morehead State (1-3)
Player FG FT R A P
Drew Kelly 0-2 0-0 1 0 0
Jordan Percell 0-1 0-0 0 0 0
Deandre Mathieu 2-6 0-0 1 3 4
Terrance Hill 8-16 2-3 2 1 24
Ty Proffitt 3-9 0-0 2 1 6
Kahlil Owens 0-0 0-0 1 0 0