MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Consider for a moment Coach Bob Huggins' first three seasons as basketball coach at his alma mater.
Remember that those West Virginia teams went 80-30 - including 34-20 in the regular season in the toughest conference in major college hoops, won a Big East tournament title and reached an NCAA Final Four.
Then consider what you would think in Huggins' fourth WVU season if you saw a boxscore and in it, against a respectable, unbeaten team, John Flowers and Cam Thoroughman ranked second and third in minutes played, respectively, with 35 and 33.
Trouble, right here in Monongahela River City, right?
That's what happened Saturday at the WVU Coliseum, as the Mountaineers dropped Cleveland State from the perfect ranks with a 74-63 decision. Flowers and Thoroughman, seniors who haven't played major roles in the past, led WVU.
And that's the way it's going to have to be if West Virginia (8-2) is to prosper once Big East play begins here Dec. 29 against St. John's - followed by dates at Marquette, DePaul and Georgetown.
"We've got a bunch of role players," Flowers said after a career-high 11 rebounds and his first double-double in a WVU uniform. "We showed how we can play as a group today.
"We rebounded the ball a lot better (a 40-30 advantage), but we could have defended better. What we did best was share the ball. I honestly think this is the first time we played as a complete team."
Huggins concurred that his team's best asset against the Horizon League's Vikings (12-1) was "particularly, passing the ball better. We didn't force as many things. We had only 10 turnovers (matching a season low). We took better care of the ball. We passed it, and we passed it more frequently."
These Mountaineers are going to have to play their roles to the hilt, if they are to achieve the fifth place Big East finish predicted by conference coaches.
That seems a bit lofty, considering what WVU lost in personnel and offensive, defensive and on-floor leadership.
Huggins' guys have to play smart. And he knows he has to get better and more consistent play at the point. He tried point guard-by-committee against CSU, using Truck Bryant, Joe Mazzulla and Jonnie West there.
Although the turnovers were few, so was the ability to get WVU into its halfcourt offense with any consistency.
That's one part of the game in which Thoroughman excelled. The bulky, 6-foot-7 Ohioan had a career-best seven assists and no turnovers to go with a career-high nine points. He also tied his season high with six rebounds.
It was the second straight game Thoroughman has posted his WVU bests in points and assists. He went into a Dec. 12 win over Duquesne averaging fewer than 16 minutes per game. He's played 34 and 33 in the last two outings.
Why? Because he knows how to play the game the way Huggins wants it played.