CHARLESTON, W.Va - On a night when he provided many surprises, the best came last for Brandon Watkins.
West Virginia's freshman forward was celebrating the 74-64 Capital Classic win, one he shaped greatly with his first career double-double, when he and the rest of the Mountaineers paused to watch Juwan Staten accept the game's most valuable player award.
The smile vanished from Watkins' face when it was announced he won the award after his 12 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals helped WVU win beat Marshall for a third consecutive season, the seventh time in eight years and the 14th time in 18 seasons.
"I thought they were going to give it to Juwan or somebody other than me," Watkins said. "I thought I was just doing what I was supposed to do."
The prize came with an interview with the Capital Classic Network at mid-court of the Charleston Civic Center while photographers tried to take pictures of the rest of the Mountaineers with the game trophy. The players refused to do it until Watkins was done with his interview and could join the party.
"We're a family, we're a team and we want to make sure everyone feels that way," guard Gary Browne said. "He did an outstanding job stepping up. He did an amazing job. He's young and sometimes he doesn't understand little things become big things, but he's a good kid. He works his hardest in practice every day and now he's got a good game."
It was a stunner for the Mountaineers (7-4). Watkins didn't play in Tuesday's loss to Gonzaga and played only 2 minutes in the Dec. 5 loss to Missouri. His career totals were 26 points, 17 rebounds, one block and three steals.
Watkins shot 5-for-7 in the season opener against Mount St. Mary's. He was 7-for-19 the next eight games before going 6-for-7 against the Thundering Herd (4-6). He played 27 minutes, which was more than starters Devin Williams and Kevin Noreen - combined. Watkins had never played more than 18 minutes in a game and 26 in back-to-back games.
Truth be told, it didn't look like any of that would change, either.
"He had a couple of really good days of practice, but he wasn't playing very well," said Coach Bob Huggins, who won the 730th game of his career and is in 15th place on the NCAA Division I list of all-time winningest coaches. "He wasn't into it very much, so I didn't play him. I told him, 'I'm not going to play you until you get with it.'"
Noreen struggled for just 7 minutes and actually shot an air ball on a layup. Williams couldn't hang onto the ball, whether he was catching it, dribbling it or rebounding it, and played 16 minutes. Nathan Adrian, still bothered by a sprained ankle, had one turnover and no other stats in 4 minutes.
"I was running out of people," he said.