By Tom Bragg
Times West Virginian
The Charleston Civic Center crowd was waiting for something, anything, exciting to happen in West Virginia’s thorough dismantling of Morehead State on Tuesday, and then Paul Williamson got into the game for the Mountaineers.
Williamson, a walk-on freshman who was a Mountain State prep star at Logan, came in to a loud ovation from the Civic Center crowd and promptly gave them more to cheer about.
As soon as he touched the ball people in the crowd could be heard screaming for him to shoot, and when Williamson’s first attempt from three found the bottom of the bucket the crowd went wild. When he hoisted his second attempt from beyond the arc, this one from the corner in front of the pep band, the shot looked to be short coming out of his hands.
But, just like the first one, Williamson’s second shot found the inside of the net.
If the crowd at the Civic Center was at its loudest when the former Logan Wildcat made his first shot, it might have been as loud as any Mountaineer crowd has been this season when his second went through.
“Yeah, I heard them,” Williamson said. “They were a little excited, I think. I’m excited to be back in Charleston and back around my home area.”
Williamson, the only player from West Virginia on the Mountaineers’ roster, said he had played approximately a dozen high school games at the Civic Center, including a win in the 2010 Class AAA state championship game against Wheeling Park. Despite just being a few hours from his hometown of Harts while at school in Morgantown, Williamson said the opportunity to get to play in Charleston in front of so many family members and close friends was one he would cherish.
“I was sitting there before the game, shooting around, just thinking of all the memories I made in high school,” he said. “I was lucky enough to win a state championship and play against some great teams and have that place completely packed out. It was a great feeling.
“It’s truly a blessing to be from West Virginia.”
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West Virginia shot a not-so-good 9-of-21 at the foul line in the first half against Morehead State. The Civic Center has gained a reputation over the years as a gym where the shots sometimes just don’t fall, and that seemed to be the case for WVU at the stripe in the first half.
Deniz Kilicli, who made his one field goal attempt in the half but was just 2-of-6 from the foul line at the break, tried to provide some logic for the first-half slump after West Virginia corrected the problem in the second half by connecting on all 10 of its foul shot attempts.
“The other rim sucks, that’s why,” Kilicli said. “I hate it. I hate that rim. I can never make a foul shot there.”
Though he only played 20 minutes in the game, Kilicli was able to pull down seven rebounds and score 10 points in the win.
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West Virginia’s rebounding left something to be desired in the season opener against Oral Roberts, and Bob Huggins told the media as much after that game. Since then, the Mountaineers have steadily improved on the glass.
Against Morehead State, West Virginia won the rebounding battle 40-22 and owned their own offensive glass while keeping MSU out of sync on their end (winning that battle 14-4).
Kilicli said he judges himself by his output on the glass.
“Last year I didn’t get the ball as much as I do this year,” he said. “I’m happy about my rebounds, that’s what I’m happy about.”
Asked what he had done to improve his game in that department, Kilicli offered a simple answer.
“I worked on it,” he said. “I’m still not there, but as the year progresses I think I’ll be way better than I am right now.”
Kilicli is currently second on the Mountaineers with 7.5 rebounds per game. Senior Kevin Jones, who pulled down 10 rebounds Tuesday in Charleston, leads the team with an average of 12.3 rpg.
Jones continued his fast start for West Virginia on Tuesday. Not only did the forward from New York lead the team with his 10 rebounds, he also scored a team-high 23 points. For the season, Jones leads WVU in scoring, rebounding, blocks and minutes played.
Email Tom Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org.