WVU basketball: Hinds give Mountaineers a spark
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Kevin Jones knows that the way West Virginia started this season likely changed the way outsiders viewed the Mountaineers.
"I don't know if we're going to scare anybody any more coming into a game with the loss to Kent State and the exhibition loss to Northern Kentucky," said Jones, whose Mountaineers had their most impressive spurt of the season in a 77-56 victory over Akron in front of a Coliseum crowd of 7,334.
"I don't know if anybody is going to come in and be in awe of us, so we've just got to go out get in passing lanes and rebound the ball," he said. "We're long and athletic and we can get out and run. That's our game and as long as we do that, we'll be able to win."
The Mountaineers did all of that Monday. They scored 15 unanswered points during a 19-2 run at the end of the first half, held the Zips without a basket for the final 9:30 and turned a six-point lead into a 43-20 halftime advantage.
The second half was irrelevant and at times disorganized.
The Mountaineers started a difficult four-game stretch with a relatively easy win against a team expected to compete for the Mid-American Conference championship.
"We did OK," Jones said.
"We had our lapses in the second half and we didn't play a full 40 minutes, but we're getting better every day. We don't want to look too much into it, but it's definitely a resume builder and I'm glad we got it against a pretty good Akron team."
Freshman guard Jabarie Hinds led WVU (4-1) with a career-high 19 points.
Hinds scored 12 points during the decisive run in the final 3:53 of the half.
"The momentum was going our way on offense and defense," Hinds said. "We forced turnovers and had easy layups. Everything was going our way."
No one had it going more than Hinds, who was 5-for-5 in the run with a 3-pointer, an assist, two steals and third forced turnover when he poked a ball free from an Akron player to start a fast break.
"It felt really good," said Hinds, whose career-high had been 13 points. "I did everything simple. I took whatever they gave me. It was a good first half."
Jones had 18 points, 12 rebounds and two assists, two blocked shots and two steals for his fourth double-double this season and the 15th in his career. Deniz Kilicli and Truck Bryant had 11 points each for the Mountaineers.
WVU shot 51.9 percent in the second half, but was outscored 36-34, thanks to a series of errors committed by the reserves Coach Bob Huggins let play out the final few minutes.
"That was a travesty at the end of the game, just an absolute travesty," he said.
Nick Harney led the Zips (3-3) with 12 points and eight rebounds. Zeke Marshall, a 7-foot center averaging 3.2 blocks per game, had 10 points and two blocks, but fouled out in 19 minutes.
Senior Brett McClanahan, who played at Nitro High School and set school records with 1,828 points and 290 3-pointers, had five points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal. He was averaging nine points per game this season and 15 in the previous two games
Akron was playing its second consecutive game without its suspended starting point guard, Alex Abreu, and committed 20 turnovers that WVU turned into 32 points.
"We have some offensive issues with our point guard out so we expected that the pressure was going to bother us, which it did, but we hung around defensively," Coach Keith Dambrot said. "But in a 3 minute, 40 second stretch, we went from 24-18 and shooting a free throw to getting blown out of the gym."
The Zips were picked to finish second in the MAC's preseason poll behind Kent State, which beat WVU 70-60 on Nov. 15. Akron - which qualified for the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years - started this season with a 68-58 win at Mississippi State.
WVU plays the next two away from home, first at Mississippi State Saturday in the Big East/SEC Invitational. The Mountaineers haven't played a road game this season.
"It won't be easy, but if we're afraid to go play, then we're not any good and we're not going to be any good," said Huggins, who got his first Division I head coaching job at Akron and was 97-46 in five seasons there.
After visiting Mississippi State, WVU plays Kansas State Dec. 8 in Wichita, Kan., and then plays host to Miami.
"I learned we can be a very good team by the end of the year," Bryant said. "This is just one game down, but it's something big to build on."
The Mountaineers led 24-18 when Huggins got his first technical foul of the season, but the Zips missed the free throws and the Mountaineers dominated the rest of the half.
WVU didn't exactly shoot it straight, going 16-for-36 from the floor, 3-for-10 from 3-point range and 8-for-16 at the free throw line, but the points came easy. The Mountaineers turned 10 Akron turnovers into 18 points. Twenty of the 43 points were scored in the paint and nine of the 16 baskets were layups.
"We thought we could get in them and pressure them a little bit and take them out of what they want to do," Huggins said. "I think a lot of times that ends up with the cumulative effect and we wear on them and wear on them."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.