West Virginia University’s Basketball Team is off to a 6-2 start thanks to an 85-80 double overtime win over previously undefeated Kansas State last Thursday and a 77-66 win over Miami at the Coliseum last Saturday night. Those wins followed a 75-62 loss at Mississippi State to complete a three game stretch that many were using to gauge the progress of this young basketball team. Coming out of that stretch at 2-1 surpasses most expectations. Going into those games a 1-2 result seemed likely.
For coach Bob Huggins, and Mountaineer fans in general, the Kansas State game was a huge win. For Huggins it was a win over his former team, and good friend, Frank Martin. In the overall picture the game was perhaps a coming of age of sorts for a team making extensive use of six freshmen.
Of course whether or not the KSU game was some sort of turning point in the season will be determined later with the benefit of hindsight, but for now it has the look and feel of a pivotal game. The freshmen have been sporadic as can be expected, but a significant reason for WVU’s sluggishness was inconsistent play of a couple veterans.
Junior center Deniz Kilicli was struggling to find his shot and staying out of foul trouble. Now, shooting and staying out of foul trouble may be an issue for Kilicli off and on through out the season, but the Turk has shown how valuable he can be in the recent stretch. If he continues to improve, Kilicli’s up side is very high.
One of the most painful things to watch in the early part of the season was the play of senior guard Truck Bryant. At times this season Bryant looked like the freshman while freshmen guards Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne were a bit more consistent. Not only was Bryant not making shots, but also some of his turnovers were the head shaking variety. Bryant is making the transition to the permanent two-guard position this season, but it is a transition that he actually began last year when sharing backcourt duties with Joe Mazzulla.
In the two games last week, Bryant looked like a new player scoring 24 and 27 points respectively against KSU and Miami. In the double overtime win Bryant played all 50 minutes and had just one turnover. For his efforts he was named the Big East player of the week.
Then there is senior Kevin Jones who put up 30 points at Kansas State, but struggled offensively against Miami. There is little concern about Jones, because he will give the team something positive every game. If Bryant and Kilicli continue on their upward trend the future could be bright, because the freshmen are figuring things out as well.