Mountaineers rebound with clean, 70-57, win over Jacksonville State

Nov. 15—MORRGANTOWN — The ball movement was crisp and clean. The chemistry was well mixed and shots went in at a rapid pace.

This couldn't be the WVU men's basketball team could it ?

Indeed it was.

Jesse Edwards was dominant down low and Kobe Johnson and Quinn Slazinski were good from everywhere else, as the Mountaineers knocked off Jacksonville State 70-57 on Tuesday inside the Coliseum.

"I think we were pushing the pace at an extremely high level, " said Slazinski, who finished with 19 points and seven reounds. "That's all Kobe Johnson. When he's pushing the pace, we want him in transition, we want him making plays. As you saw tonight, he's an unbelievable finisher."

What WVU (2-1) showed against the Gamecocks was anything unlike its first two games that were nearly demonstrations of putting round pegs into square holes.

What was two games of struggling to shoot and score—one of which was an upset loss to Monmouth—turned into a well-played exhibition of moving, passing and seeing shots actually going through the rim.

"I just told the guys in the locker room that everybody had a lot to do with winning that game, " WVU head coach Josh Eilert said. "It was a buy-in game in so many ways. We really got down in the trenches of what we needed to fix. They responded in a good way. The approach, the energy, the enthusiasm and the way they transitioned from the loss was the type of mind set we're going to have to have."

Edwards and Johnson dominated the first half that saw WVU lead 40-27 at the break. Edwards did it with dunks, either from grabbing a rare WVU miss and flushing it back in or from grabbing a lob pass from Johnson and throwing it down.

"Jesse is a great kid and I always tell him on the court, 'I like you mean, Jesse, ' " Slazinski said. "When he wants to be, he's a bad dude. He never takes plays off and when he grits his mouth piece in the huddle and he's ready to go, I like that."

Johnson got himself close to the basket for quick one-handers, got out in transition and even nailed a 3-pointer early.

Slazinski got going in the second half, first with a step-back 19-footer that was followed by a drive along the baseline and a 3-pointer that gave the Mountaineers a 50-31 advantage with 16:10 remaining.

Jacksonville State (1-2) did get as close as 61-53 with just under four minutes to play, but the Mountaineers closed the game on a 9-4 run behind a three-pointer from Josiah Harris (12 points) and Edwards added another basket in the paint.

In all, WVU hit a season-high 51.1 % (23 of 45) from the floor, this from a team who was shooting 33 % coming into the game. The Mountaineers also had a season-high 16 assists and also finished 8 of 19 (42 %) from behind the arc.

"Obviously everybody knows all the new players that have come into this team, " Slazinski said. "We're just going to continue to get better and better. In college, everybody is transferring now, it's kind of hard to get everyone ready. You see that through all of college basketball. It's hard to put a bunch of kids together and have a working offense, but it's going to get better."

Edwards finished with 14 points and also drew 10 of the Gamecocks' 20 fouls. Johnson finished with a career-high 19 points, while adding six rebounds, five assists against just one turnover in 35 minutes of action.

"These guys have trusted me, " Johnson said. "I've been putting in the work, so it feels real good."