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West denies the “numbers”

Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli says he has his team “play the numbers,” meaning the Hawks prepare for an opponent based largely upon the stat sheet. And the numbers said the Hawks did not have to worry too much about West Virginia junior forward Lamont West, who had made only 29.2 percent of his shots through the first three games of the season.

Well, in this case, the numbers were wrong. After scoring just seven points in the first two games of the Myrtle Beach Invitational, West went off for 27 points on 7-of-11 shooting from 3-point range to lead the Mountaineers to a 97-90 victory over St. Joseph’s, giving West Virginia third place in the tournament.

A starter in the first three games of the season, West came off the bench against St. Joe’s and quickly made his presence felt. He sank four 3-pointers in a five-minute span, and was a major reason that the Mountaineers (2-2) hit 59 percent of their shots in the first half.

Then with West Virginia holding a slim 73-69 lead midway through the second half, West drained yet another trey to increase the Mountaineers’ advantage to seven, and they maintained at least a six-point lead the rest of the way.

“I’m a shooter. I don’t really look at the last shot I took or however many I’ve missed. I just look forward to the next one,” West said. “In my head, if I’ve missed the last three, I’m going to make the next three. So it really doesn’t matter how I played in the last game. The scouting report says I’m a shooter. So if they don’t guard me because of my numbers, then that’s where they messed up.”

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said “we talked today and I think he was putting too much pressure on himself. He’s never really started, he’s always come off the bench for us and I thought maybe bringing him off the bench he’d feel more comfortable and wouldn’t feel the weight of the world on his shoulders. He came out and played really well. He just didn’t shoot it, he played well, rebounded better than he’s done all year, he moved the ball better than he’s done all year.”

The Hawks (2-2) were led by junior guard Kimble Lamarr, who tossed in 31 points. But sophomore forward Charlie Brown Jr., who averaged 27 points in the first two tournament games, fouled out with still eight minutes remaining and finished with 18 points.