MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Leading scorer Kevin Jones came through when West Virginia needed him the most, scoring 10 points early in the second half to blow open a relatively close game with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi here.
Jones finished with 22 points, and the Mountaineers defeated the Islanders 84-64.The Mountaineers (7-2) led just 32-28 at the half. But with the help of Jones, who was averaging 20 points a game coming in, Darryl "Truck" Bryant and Deniz Kilicli, they won their sixth game in the last seven. Bryant finished with 14 points and Kilicli 13.It was the first game in the IBN Sports Las Vegas Classic for both the Mountaineers, and Corpus Christi (1-7), which lost its fifth straight.Jones scored 18 and Kilicli had 11 as West Virginia outscored Corpus Christi 52-36 in the second half."(West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins) expects us to go in there and lead these guys. We didn't do a good job of that today. We weren't as focused in the first half as we were in the second half. Deniz, `Truck' and I have to be the leaders and make sure we're ready to play every night," Jones said. "I just wanted to come out (in the second half) and set an example for our team of playing hard and doing what Coach expects us to do every time we are out there on the floor."I sat out basically the whole first half and I was pretty fresh so I wanted to come out with as much energy as possible."Jones was held out with two fouls for most of the first half, while Kilicli's first-half bench time was based on a coach's decision.With Jones and Kilicli combining to play just 11 minutes in the first half, Corpus Christi kept it close, trailing by just four at the break.Jones, however, was in the lineup as the second half started, and he made the most of it.After a 3-point shot by the Islanders' Terence Jones to pull Corpus Christi within four, 35-31, with 18:31 remaining, West Virginia scored 11 straight points. The scoring spree put the Mountaineers up 46-31 with 15:17 to go."It just came within the flow of the game. It was just me being aggressive and trying to help out any way I could whether it was rebounding, steals or scoring in the paint when I got my opportunities," Kevin Jones said.Corpus Christi's Myron Dempsey stopped the streak, briefly, with a bucket but then Kilicli got involved.After earning only five minutes of playing time in the first half the Mountaineers' center was prepared for second-half heroics. He made three of WVU's next five field goals and helped establish a 54-37 advantage with 12:23 showing."We played horrible in the first half. We kind of played all right in the second half. I think that's not a good game for us," said Kilicli. "Personally, I didn't like what I did. I could have done better in the first half. I need to work on my consistency."Against this team, we should have just dominated in the first half and sat in the second. We switched it up. We sat the first half and played the second."West Virginia built its lead to 20 with 11:20 left and Corpus Christi would come only within 14 points the rest of the way."Today, we weren't ready to play. We thought we were going to come in and (the Islanders) were going to lie down and let us win," Huggins said. "It doesn't work like that. I make them play hard every day in practice."That is a little easier. I guess I could call timeout and put them all on the treadmill after the timeout. We are going to play 31 games, the conference tournament and then hopefully the NCAA Tournament, and you can't yell and scream at them all the time because it will wear off. You have got to pick and choose."Chris Hawkins-Mast had 22 and Terence Jones totaled 20 for the Islanders."I'm just disappointed we didn't make it a better game in the second half," Corpus Christi coach Willis Wilson said. "I felt like we had some opportunities to really challenge West Virginia in the second half and we just didn't play at the level of intensity or focus that we needed to."West Virginia outscored Corpus Christi 34-24 in the paint, 29-15 off of turnovers and 11-4 on second chance points.West Virginia hosts Tennessee Tech in the second round Monday, then goes to Las Vegas for the final two games against Missouri State (Dec. 22) and No. 6 ranked Baylor (Dec. 23).