MORGANTOWN - If West Virginia basketball Coach Bob Huggins was making a point when he said last week Deniz Kilicli and Casey Mitchell "have got to get better," then Kilicli and Mitchell got it Tuesday night.
And 31 more.
Mitchell scored a game-high 18 points and Kilicli added 14 in what was arguably his most complete performance of the basketball season. It's just the third time in 13 games both have scored in double figures, but the second in a row.
The combined point total was their best since teaming for 35 against American on Dec. 1, when Mitchell had 27.
Mitchell got the Mountaineers off to a good start Tuesday with a pair of 3-pointers to build a 12-4 lead. WVU had fallen behind by double figures in each of the previous two games.
Kilicli provided a boost during a first-half run and then had a big basket late to stop DePaul's push and key the 67-65 victory against the host Blue Demons.
"It's not a coincidence," WVU forward Kevin Jones said. "When those two guys play well together and put it all together, we're a good team."
This is also a team that can struggle to be good, which is becoming more and more clear with every frantic late-game finish.
The Mountaineers, who visit 13th-ranked Georgetown (12-3, 1-2) at 11 a.m. Saturday, are discovering they must do things in a manner that doesn't necessarily resemble what let they did to win the Big East tournament and reach the NCAA Final Four last year.
"They're different everywhere," Huggins said. "They're different in practice. I don't pay attention to them on the plane, but I bet they're different there, too."
In a search for stability, Huggins has zeroed in on Mitchell and Kilicli. For the Mountaineers (9-4, 1-2 Big East) to be successful, they need to be effective on offense to overcome their issues on defense and rebounding. They need to get easy scores inside and make open shots outside.
That's Kilicli and Mitchell. WVU needs Mitchell to hit from the perimeter and for Kilicli to thrive in the post. It became clear when they weren't doing it.
Kilicli scored zero, four and four points against Duquesne, Cleveland State and St. John's. Mitchell had six, two and 15 points - that on 5-for-13 shooting - in the same three games. Kilicli then matched his career-high with 14 points against Marquette, with 12 coming in the second half, and Mitchell matched Kilicli and made 4-of-7 3-point attempts.
Afterward, Huggins stated both had to contribute to help WVU get out of back-to-back losses.