PISCATAWAY, N.J. - There wasn't a large crowd inside the Rutgers Athletic Center before tip-off Sunday morning. The student section behind the West Virginia basket was empty.
The Mountaineers weren't surrounded by hecklers like they were in the pre-game Thursday at Pitt's Petersen Events Center.
No distractions. No anxiety. Just some hip-hop music for them to stretch to and a few free moments that allowed them to look across the court at Rutgers.
What they saw changed the way they felt about the game.
"In warm-ups, I looked down on their end and I said, 'Boys, we can outrebound these guys,' " forward Cam Thoroughman said.
Understand, this is not a feeling WVU is used to before a Big East game. The inspiration ended up being a major difference in the 65-54 victory against the Scarlet Knights before a crowd of 7,752.
"It definitely helped knowing we had the advantage in that department going in and all we had to do was attack the glass," forward Kevin Jones said. "We didn't do that in the first half, but we made a concerted effort to do that in the second half. That's what got us over the top when out scoring wasn't going well."
Jones and John Flowers both had double-doubles and WVU outrebounded Rutgers by 14 in the second half on the way to a 46-31 edge - the largest rebounding margin in Big East play this season. Nine of 14 rebounds in the second half were on offense and led to 13 second-chance points.
"We've got to do that," Coach Bob Huggins said. "We spend a lot of time working on rebounding the ball at the offensive end. When you shoot it the way we've been shooting it, you have to find ways to score."
The second half played out in a two-possession sequence. Casey Mitchell missed a 3-pointer from the left side, but Flowers snatched the rebound and reset the offense. Mitchell got the ball a few seconds later and scored from practically the same spot.
Jonathan Mitchell missed a jumper for Rutgers and WVU (18-10, 9-7 Big East) embarked upon a 79-second possession in which Mitchell missed 3s that were rebounded by Jones and Flowers. Jones then missed from the left side and Flowers rebounded again. He passed inside to Cam Thoroughman, who caught the ball at the rim and found Mitchell alone on the right side for a 3-pointer and a 50-42 lead with 6:45 to go.
"You could tell they were getting frustrated when we were getting those offensive rebounds," Flowers said. "They were scrambling out to the pass. Everyone was crashing the glass, but then we'd make them scramble out to defend. They didn't get there in time and Casey made a big 3."
It was the final basket in an 11-0 run for the Mountaineers in response to 7-0 run by Rutgers that forced Huggins to call timeout.