MORGANTOWN If this is going to be a breakout season for West Virginia's Keaton Miles, he might have a disrespecting, trash-talking University of Oklahoma defender to credit for it.
Miles, a sophomore who started 30 games his freshman season, scored a career-best 11 points and was one of seven Mountaineers players in double figures as they throttled VMI, 94-69, on Wednesday night at the Coliseum.
Back to that Sooners defender who no doubt planned he'd have an easy game last week, considering Miles had played in 36 career games and never scored more than six points in any of them.
WVU’s Deniz Kilicli (13) goes over VMI’s Nick Gore (30) for a rebound.
''A guy challenged me,'' Miles said. ''He said I can't shoot. He just brought something out of me. From that point on, I've just been feeling good as far as bringing more confidence and going out there to compete.
I plan to keep on doing that.''
Normally, 11 points and three rebounds doesn't make for a long letter to write home, but Miles was admittedly lost through much of his freshman year. The fact that the light's coming on is a good sign for these still-trying-to-find-their way Mountaineers (2-3). Miles said he stopped thinking so much and just started playing.
''I remember what he was like early on this year,'' West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of Miles. ''All of those guys are like, 'what do I need to do to play?' If you defend and rebound, the rest of it will come. Those are two things you can control. And (Miles) has taken that to heart. He did a good job of defending, he's rebounded the ball better, he's passed the ball better. When you tell him to reverse the ball, he reverses the ball.''
That's how you stay on the floor, which Miles rarely did a year ago, if you plan to see the floor while playing for Huggins.
''We've got some guys who still think they can shoot their way into playing time and they're going to kill themselves,'' Huggins said. ''You can't continue to clang shots off the rim, not rebound and not guard, and get any playing time.''
On the whole, the Mountaineers did that better against the Keydets than they'd done in previous outings. They shot 45.1 percent (37 of 82) and held a 52-44 edge in rebounding.
In addition to the seven players in double figures (Deniz Kilicli, 13; Terry Henderson, 10; Aaric Murray, 13; Juwan Staten, 18; Eron Harris, 10; Gary Browne, 11, and Miles), they also had six with at least five rebounds (Kilicli, 5; Henderson, 7; Murray, 9; Aaron Brown, 5; Staten, 7; and Browne, 7).
West Virginia, which made half of its first-half shots despite missing a bevy of layups in the opening minutes, led by 17 after at halftime. The Mountaineers trailed by five at 9-4 at the 17:44 mark, then ripped off on a 44-22 run the rest of the way. Leading that charge was Staten's 12 points.
The Keydets (3-4) had zero bench points at halftime, but finished with 28 of them, with freshman guard Tim Marshall hitting a trio of 3-pointers and scoring 11 points off the pine.
''I thought we got off to a great start,'' VMI coach Duggar Baucom said. ''Then West Virginia started forcing its will. Their guys look like they live in the weight room. They've got some big, strong guys. I really thought they imposed their will and made it the kind of game they wanted it to be.''
In the end, it turned out as he expected, with the Mountaineers also leading in points in the paint (60-30), points off turnovers (20-15), second-chance points (25-5), and fast-break points (12-4).
''"I guess it helps us,'' Baucom said of his team's upcoming schedule against Big South Conference foes. ''It certainly helps our budget. There's 95,000 reasons we play this game, and none of them are my idea.''
In typical Huggins mode, he still had some issues with his team.
''Our biggest problem is if we practice for two hours, I get an hour and 40 minutes out of them,'' he said. ''If we go for three hours, I get two hours and 10 minutes. So consequently, you don't get 40 minutes out of them when you play 40 minutes. And that's where we have to be better.''
With the victory, WVU improved to 43-5 all-time against VMI. ... West Virginia fell six points shy of 100. Under Huggins, they've done that only twice, and those both came within his first five games back at his alma mater (Nov. 18, 2007 against Prairie View A&M, 106-41, and nine days later against Maryland-Eastern Shore, 110-44). West Virgina is 95-9 all-time in home openers.