By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
December 9, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Although the score wasn’t eye-popping, West Virginia did what it needed to do to beat one of its long-standing opponents in Duquesne. What tonight showed was the consistency of even-keeled forward Kevin Jones, who has been ultra-reliable for West Virginia this season.
The sophomore from Mount Vernon, N.Y., continues to be one of West Virginia’s hardest workers inside. He cleaned up the glass tonight with a team-high nine rebounds and also led the Mountaineers with 16 points, adding to his already-impressive all-tournament team performance at the 76 Classic.
“I had a good time shooting the ball today,” Jones said. “My teammates were looking for me in my open spots. I was able to get on the glass early and I took advantage.”
||Forward Kevin Jones has been nothing but consistent thus far for West Virginia.
Dave Miller photo
No one has been more consistent than Jones in the early portion of this season. He entered tonight’s contest leading the team with nearly a 56.5 field goal percentage. Although he is considered a big man who does some of the dirty work inside, part of his game is shooting from mid-range and outside the arc, and so far he has been able to knock down those jumpers repeatedly.
“I feel more confident this year with the shots that I wouldn’t have taken last year,” Jones said. “My teammates and coaches have confidence in me to just go out there and play. Don’t think, just play the game.”
The efficient forward kicked a little bit of energy back into his team tonight when his 3-pointer from the right wing with 14:35 left made it 49-24. Nearly a minute and a half later, Jones took a nice feed from Truck Bryant on the fastbreak for a powerful dunk, helping ignite an offense that was mistake-prone at times tonight.
“As long as our offense is moving and we’re making hard cuts, it doesn’t matter how slow we are,” Jones added. “I know my shots will come and if they don’t then I’ll be getting to the glass and that’s good enough for me.”
Jones was happy with the effort that he led in the first half tonight. His first three baskets were all off offensive put-backs, which was indicative of the way he and his team worked inside against the Dukes for most of the game.
Playing against a team that is notoriously fast-paced and quick at all five spots, Jones thought it was important to build an early lead that swelled to a 22-point advantage by halftime.
“I’m not surprised,” Jones said of his team’s fast start. “We knew they were a good team and we had to get on them early, and we had been practicing for the last two days. That’s what we came out and did. We all came in with a lot of intensity and finished with a lot of intensity.”
Although West Virginia didn’t execute its offensive game plan to perfection, it does say something about your team when many consider it an “off night” and you still get a 29-point victory against an Atlantic-10 school.
“No, this isn’t anywhere near our best basketball,” Jones admitted. “Our best basketball is coming up soon.
“It says a lot about our defense. They’re still a pretty good team, but we were able to take them out early and that really hurt them in the first half.”
When West Virginia finds its offensive rhythm, it will be a difficult team to face because of its reliability on the defensive end. Coach Bob Huggins’ man-to-man attack swarmed the Dukes repeatedly, contesting almost every shot taken inside.
And if there’s one player who Huggins won’t have to worry about bringing his A-game every time, it is Jones. Perhaps no one has developed more than the 6-foot-8 forward over the last year, and it seems that his best is yet to come.