By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
The night, like the offensive glass, belonged to Kevin Jones on Thursday at the Coliseum as West Virginia University bullied its way past an undermanned and overmatched Alcorn State team, 97-62, to improve its record to 2-1.
Jones pulled down 13 rebounds while scoring a career-high 29 points, 10 of those rebounds coming off the offensive glass.
The third one was really special, though, as it broke Chris Brooks’ record of 320 career offensive rebounds. Brooks played for Gale Catlett from 1988 to 1991.
“I have to thank my teammates,” he said in acknowledging the record, sounding as if this was another of those “ho-hum, I set a record” quotes before he added “for missing all those shots.”
That brought about a laugh, but it wasn’t only his teammates’ shots that he rebounded. In fact, there was one red-faced moment in the game for Jones when he actually missed a dunk.
Of course, the ball came right back to him for one of his offensive rebounds and another basket.
“He is what he is,” forward Deniz Kilicli said. “When it goes up, it’s his ball.”
“I’m more happy with the win than the record,” he admitted. “But being No. 1 at something, being the best at that moment, is special.”
How special has Jones been through his first three years and three games at WVU?
“When it’s all said and done, he’s had a Hall of Fame career,” coach Bob Huggins said. “He’s going to be in the top 10 in scoring and in rebounding.”
But he has been special more than just on the basketball court, as Huggins would point out.
“He has worked so hard and is such a wonderful guy. You can’t imagine how good he is to work with, not just for the basketball staff but everyone around the Coliseum,” Huggins said.
The work is important, but the ability to grab offensive rebounds is almost instinctual.
“I have a natural knack for it, but you have to practice it. I have to find my man, hit him first, then get better position than him,” he said, before adding a jab at his New York running mate Truck Bryant.
“I’ve seen enough missed shots with Truck.” he said, wearing a smile with his No. 5 uniform jersey.
Huggins was asked if there is one trait all the great rebounders have.
“Good hands,” he said. “Think of the great offensive rebounders – Malone, Silas, Rodman … they were not great jumpers but they had great hands.”
Coming off a defeat to Kent State, this was an important game for WVU to regain some pride and for their freshmen and senior guard Bryant to regain some confidence, all of which was accomplished with a 35-point victory.
“Who looked at the schedule and didn’t think we’d win this one?” Huggins said, honest as always.
Jones took matters into his own good hands early. He admits he had the rebounding record in the back of his mind when he took the floor, but he was also ready to put the points up.
He hit WVU’s first seven points, including a 3-point shot, and 10 of his 15 points were second-chance points, getting WVU out to a 21-12 lead. It went to 24-12 moments later against this team that won only four games all of last year when walk-on Paul Williamson of Logan hit a 3 for his first three career points.
Alcorn hung around for a while, but a late run in the first half allowed WVU to take a 44-28 lead in at halftime.
The second half was no contest as Jones, Bryant and point guard Gary Browne buried the visitors.
Bryant, coming off what he called “the worst game of my career” against Kent State, finished with 18 points and four assists without a turnover.
Browne wound up with 12 rebounds and eight points to go with four assists.
Kevin Noreen had 12 points, while Kilicli and Jabarie Hinds added 10.
WVU plays again Tuesday in Charleston against Morehead State.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.