By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Jabarie Hinds, West Virginia’s mercurial point guard, had a new look and a new outlook Monday night, leading the Mountaineers to an easy 77-56 victory over an Akron team that Coach Bob Huggins had been touting all last week.
“I needed a change,” Hinds said after scoring a game-high 19 points and adding four assists without a turnover and five steals as the young Mountaineers went to 4-1.
So it was that he went out and got himself a haircut, wearing his hair closely cropped, perhaps to help the aerodynamics of his game, something that helped a rather indescribable spin move he unveiled in the midst of a 19-2 run to close out the first half and cinch the game.
The run started, probably coincidently, moments after Huggins was hit with his first technical foul of the season. The score at the time stood at 24-18 in favor of WVU and it did not change as the Zips got zip out of two free throws.
At that point freshman Pat Forsythe, who had his best game of this still young season with four points and five rebounds, hit a basket and Hinds made a steal and was credited with a layup on a goaltending call.
Seconds later Hinds took the ball into the lane and made a move that best can be described as now you see him, now you don’t. He spun so fast and past his man so quickly that he literally was a blur, so fast that the defense could do nothing but foul him.
Now the crowd of 7,334 was at full volume, about to turn it up another notch when Gary Browne, the other freshman point guard, stole the ball, fed it to Hinds and he hit a layup.
It had gone from 24-18 to 31-18 in just about a minute, and it was to get more frenzied as Hinds gunned in a 3-point shot. Hinds had hit eight of 10 points, a streak that would grow to 12 of the final 19 points, the halftime lead having expanded to 43-20.
The last basket of the half belonged to Kevin Jones, but it came, naturally, on a nifty feed from Hinds.
“He’s a talented guy,” Huggins acknowledged.
Truck Bryant, the experienced guard who is helping break the kids in, has become a fan.
“He’s grown a lot,” Bryant said. “He makes open shots, he distributes the ball, he gets easy baskets. That’s good for a freshman.”
He’s making open shots and easy shots at 60.5 percent pace, which is the kind of numbers you expect from 7-footers who hover near the basket, not ball handlers who drive and pop from the outside.
In reality, though, when you look back on the moment Hinds announced his arrival in the big time you will come back to that spin move.
“It’s not something I do in practice,” he said. “It’s just something I know how to do. It’s something you see out there. I just took what they gave me.”
There was another reality in that late run in the first half that was important. Akron’s last basket of the half came with 9:30 left, meaning the defense simply turned the faucet off.
But this game belonged to Hinds, who is converting to the point after having been a scoring guard in high school.
What did Huggins see in him when scouting that made him think he could handle the point?
“The first thing is that when Coach (Bob) Cimmino says you are getting another Kevin Jones, that is good enough for me,” Huggins answered. “He is going to have the same type of work ethic and be the same kind of great person and he is going to represent everyone he is associated with in a class manner.
“If you watched him play in high school, he was happy to get 12 or 14 points. If they needed to get 30, he would get 30 points. He has got to become more consistent shooting the perimeter shot, but when he becomes more consistent, he is going to be very hard to guard.”
He wasn’t particularly easy to guard in this one ... and neither was Kevin Jones, who also played for Cimmino at Mount Vernon (N.Y.) High.
Jones hit half his 14 shots and finished with 18 points and again had 12 rebounds, giving him four consecutive double-doubles.
WVU now takes the road for its first real road games, traveling to Mississippi State on Dec. 3 and Kansas State in Wichita on Dec. 8.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.