CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia coach Bob Huggins knows this much heading into a grueling West Coast trip: His offense needs some help and he isn't sure when benched star Devin Ebanks will be a part of it.
John Flowers came off the bench to score 13 points and No. 8 West Virginia never trailed in a 69-50 win over The Citadel on Tuesday night.
West Virginia (2-0) showed lapses on both ends of the court coming off a nine-day layoff.
The Mountaineers committed just four turnovers and had 24 points off 19 Bulldogs turnovers. But The Citadel's crisp 3-point shooting and use of the entire shot clock kept West Virginia from making the game a rout until the end.
``I thought we'd be a lot better offensively, to be honest with you,' said Huggins, whose 641st coaching win tied him with Billy Tubbs for 24th place on the NCAA Division I list. ``We had all kinds of opportunities. We just didn't make any shots.'
West Virginia shot 46 percent (19 of 41) from the floor, including 50 percent after halftime.
``We should have come out and been sharper than we were,' forward Kevin Jones said. ``We're going to look back at this game as just another stepping stone. We want to get better throughout the season and get ready for play in March.'
West Virginia entered the night with the fewest games played among ranked teams, but that's about to change. The Mountaineers have three games in four days starting Thursday night against Long Beach State at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif.
Leaving Morgantown suits Huggins just fine. More than half of his 51 wins at WVU have come away from home.
Huggins welcomed back two players who missed all or part of West Virginia's 23-point win last week over Loyola, Md., although Ebanks wasn't among them.
Ebanks sat out the opener for what Huggins called undisclosed personal issues and dressed for Tuesday night's game but did not play. Huggins said Ebanks will accompany the team to California but doesn't know if he'll see playing time.
``I understand you all have a job to do,' Huggins said. ``You also have to understand that if it was your kid, you don't want your kid's business all over the newspaper, radio and TV because it isn't anybody's business. My responsibility is to those kids.'
Without the 6-foot-9 Ebanks, West Virginia was even in rebounds with The Citadel and looking to others for scoring and passing help.
Jones added 11 points and Darrell Bryant and Casey Mitchell had 10 apiece for the Mountaineers. Da'Sean Butler, who scored 26 against Loyola, had seven in the first half against the Bulldogs but was held to nine for the game on 4-of-11 shooting in 35 minutes.
Flowers returned from a foot injury and shot 5-of-8 in 22 minutes.
``If John Flowers gives me that kind of energy, John's going to play a lot of minutes,' Huggins said.
Joe Mazzulla, a backup guard, saw his first action since last December after missing the Big East season with a sore left shoulder. He had six assists in 15 minutes.
Flowers followed a 3-pointer with a basket and free throw, and Mazzulla made a layup to put the Mountaineers ahead 53-34 with 11:32 remaining. The Citadel (3-3), playing for the fourth time in five days, got no closer than 14 the rest of the way and fell to 0-31 against ranked opponents.
Unlike its season opener, the Mountaineers took control early, jumping ahead by double digits seven minutes into the game.
Seven players scored for West Virginia in the first nine minutes. The Citadel went more than seven minutes between baskets and the Mountaineers built a 23-7 lead midway through the first half.
Five of The Citadel's eight first-half baskets were 3-pointers, and the Bulldogs trailed at halftime 33-24.
Cameron Wells led The Citadel with 19 points. The Bulldogs got just six points from their reserves.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved