MORGANTOWN - Perhaps it was meant as a reality check for enthusiastic fans or as a bit of a stay-grounded warning to an alum from his old high school.
Whatever it was, Kevin Jones was quick to point out that while freshman Jabarie Hinds' performance Monday night was something to behold, don't get carried away just yet.
"He had a complete game, no doubt about that,'' Jones said, referring to the West Virginia freshman point guard who hails from Jones' own home town of Mount Vernon, N.Y. "But he's going to go through growing pains like every freshman. He's not going to have games like this every night.''
No, but at least on this night he showed what kind of potential exists.
With West Virginia mired in a late-first-half funk, the whirlwind freshman point guard ignited a run that gave the Mountaineers a 23-point halftime lead and West Virginia cruised to a 77-56 rout of Akron in front of a crowd of 7,334 at the Coliseum.
The win was the third in a row for the Mountaineers (4-1), while Akron fell to 3-3.
Hinds finished with 19 points, five steals and four assists. He made eight of his 12 shots and played only 30 minutes.
Jones had his fourth straight double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds and Deniz Kilicli and Truck Bryant each had 11 points for the Mountaineers. Statistically, at least, West Virginia didn't overwhelm Akron. In fact, the Mountaineers were once again awful from the foul line (14-of-27), missed 11 of 14 3-pointers and turned the ball over 16 times. The Mountaineers did manage to force 20 turnovers and outshoot the Zips from the field, 47.6 to 35.7 percent.
But all of that just served even more to illustrate just how valuable Hinds' contribution was. Quite simply, he grabbed the game by the throat when it counted most and imposed his will.
"I just felt comfortable out there,'' Hinds said. "I guess I had one of those nights.''
Indeed he did. And it happened in a flash.
It all came in the closing minutes of the first half. West Virginia was leading 24-18, but it was a tenuous lead. In one brief span, WVU missed four shots on one possession, sandwiched between a pair of missed free throws, and had to overcome Bob Huggins' first technical foul of the season. Jones, West Virginia's best and most experienced player, was missing shots from 3-point and point-blank range.
Then Hinds took it upon himself to make things right.
Over the final four minutes of the half he had 12 points, three steals (only two of which he was credited with) and an assist. He had a steal and a layup to ignite things, went one-on-one to draw a foul with the shot clock winding down, got ahead on an outlet pass after a steal by teammate Gary Browne, drained a 3-pointer, hit a fall-away near the foul line and drove for another basket.
He capped the half off by punching the ball out of Chauncey Gilliam's hands in the final seconds, taking the return pass from Browne and getting the ball to Jones for a layup to make it 43-23 at the break. That completed a 19-2 run to end the half during which Akron also had its issues with technical fouls, drawing two.
The game was never close again, and it was due in great part to Hinds' explosion. About the only thing he didn't do was rain down a bunch of 3-point shots, but even that might be coming.
"He's got to get more consistent with his perimeter shot,'' Huggins said. "When he does that he's going to be really hard to guard.''
Hinds, a 5-foot-11, 175-pounder who missed all of WVU's summer workouts and its tour of Italy because of NCAA clearinghouse issues, came into the game averaging 10 points and leading the team in assists, steals and turnovers. While he had enjoyed a few brief stretches when he seemed to take over games, none were like this.
Part of his improvement is certainly due to becoming acclimated to the college game, but it also has something to do with becoming comfortable playing in a three-guard lineup at times with Bryant and Browne. That's a combination Huggins doesn't particularly care for because it limits rebounding opportunities, but when the Mountaineers need a spark it works pretty well.
"They look better to me every game,'' said Bryant, one of only three veterans on the roster along with Jones and Kilicli. "They're starting to pick their spots and make plays.''
Akron got 12 points from Nick Harney and 10 from 7-foot center Zeke Marshall, who fouled out with just three rebounds in 19 minutes. Nitro's Brett McClanahan, a senior guard for the Zips, scored five points, making just two of his seven shots and one of his four 3-point attempts.
The game was the last at the Coliseum for West Virginia until Dec. 10, when Miami visits. Saturday night the Mountaineers play at No. 24 Mississippi State as part of the Big East-SEC challenge, then a week from Thursday they face Kansas State in a game scheduled for Wichita.
Those next two opponents are a combined 10-1 this season. The only loss was Mississippi's 68-58 home defeat at the hands of Akron.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.
WVU 77, Akron 56
Player FG FT R A P
Nikola Cvetinovic 1-7 1-3 9 1 3
Quincy Diggs 2-9 2-2 4 3 6
Chauncey Gilliam 3-9 2-2 3 0 8