College Basketball Nation: 100319 morgan-wvu

Devin Ebanks and John LongAP Photo/Todd ParmingtonDevin Ebanks, right, and West Virginia started slowly but got it together to pound Morgan State.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In their hotel rooms on the outskirts of Buffalo, the West Virginia basketball players watched their Big East brethren get picked off like ducks at a carnival shooting gallery.

And then they woke up to the reaction.

“Everyone’s badmouthing the Big East,’’ Da'Sean Butler said. “It was like everyone was jumping on the beat the Big East bandwagon.’’

Duly inspired to represent their league, West Virginia went out and laid a dinosaur egg early.

The Mountaineers sleepwalked through the first nine minutes of their first-round game against Morgan State, digging a 10-0 hole for themselves after missing their first six shots. WVU looked like it had never seen a zone while the Bears drilled the Mountaineers on offense.

When the whistle sounded for a media timeout, WVU huddled up for a decisive teaching point from their head coach.

You could say Bob Huggins inspired his Mountaineers.

“Definitely,’’ Kevin Jones said. “The coaches do a good job inspiring us. I won’t tell you how they inspire us.’’

The R-rated method (just a guess that Huggins wasn’t using cookie and milk promises) worked well for the Mountaineers and ultimately, well for the Big East.

In the 24-hour conference bloodbath, the Mountaineers once more ably carry the league’s reputation.

A week ago in New York City, West Virginia was the only top seed to survive the Black Thursday quarterfinal massacre.

Now in the NCAA tournament the Mountaineers do what they’re supposed to do -- win going away, 77-50, against a lesser team -- while everyone else around them fails miserably.

The Big East can improve its lot in life even more today. Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse all will be in action.

“I can’t speak for everyone else, but the upsets were definitely in the back of my head,’’ Smith said. “You try not to think about it but you also know that it can happen to anybody.’’

It didn’t happen in part because of Huggins’ rallying cry but also because Jones wouldn’t let it. He was every bit as ticked off as Huggins, the only guy with a hop in his step from the opening tip. Jones scored nine points in a row to pull WVU out of its funk and on to victory.

“We didn’t want to have a bad start like we did last year,’’ said Jones about the Mountaineers’ opening-round loss to Dayton a year ago. “I’m just glad we were able to overcome it.’’
BUFFALO -- Some quick observations from West Virginia's first-round walkover of Morgan State:
  • The best news for WVU: for the first time in a long time, the Mountaineers didn't have to count on Da'Sean Butler to win. Butler had nine points but it was Devin Ebanks (16 points, 13 rebounds) and Kevin Jones (17 points, 8 rebounds) who carried the day for the Mountaineers. Contributions from Ebanks and Jones is critical as teams try to lock out Butler.
  • Don't be fooled by the Mountaineers' lack of size. West Virginia is always going to be undermanned when you look at height and weight, but the Mountaineers' athleticism makes up for any deficiencies. WVU beat a bigger Morgan State team on the boards by 10, continuing a trend of outrebounding opponents all season.
  • Bob Huggins was able to get some minutes for his bench against Morgan State. That could be important on Sunday against Clemson or Missouri. Both teams will try to run WVU ragged. The bench guys needed to shake out the cobwebs and did more than that, contributing 27 points for WVU.
  • Morgan State goes home for the second consecutive year with a big gap in the scoring margin. It can't be overstated just how difficult it is for an HBCU school to compete. Todd Bozeman has done an admirable job getting good players who play hard but the dollar discrepancy is a killer when it comes to the difference in making the tournament and being an actual player.

Photoblog: Easy two for Ebanks

March, 19, 2010
3/19/10
2:04
PM ET
Devin Ebanks AP Photo/David DupreyWest Virginia's Devin Ebanks dunks against Morgan State on Friday.
BUFFALO -- A few quick thoughts following the first half of Game 1 here at the HSBC Arena where it would appear more Big East disaster has been averted:

  • West Virginia is so much better with Joe Mazzulla on the floor. He may be playing with one good arm, but Mazzulla is a more efficient and more energetic point guard than Truck Bryant. He's as vital to this team as Da'Sean Butler.
  • The Mountaineers better not wake up late on Sunday (presuming they win here today). Whoever they play -- Clemson or Missouri -- won't just build a 12-3 cushion. The two hectic high-speed opponents will run roughshod on a WVU team that sleepwalks through the first few minutes.
  • Credit Kevin Jones with the bailout here. He was the only Mountaineer with any hop in his step to start the game. He scored nine in a row to resuscitate WVU into the lead.
  • Morgan State got sloppy late in the half, but the Bears showed the hallmarks of a good team early. The Bears made smart decisions and ran a good offense. Big men Rodney Stokes and Kevin Thompson are solid post players with some terrific moves.
  • The Bears' band rocks.

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