In a Big East battle between two Top 25 schools, West Virginia had a player Pittsburgh could not prepare for; his name is Deniz Kilicli. He was suspended for the first 20 games of the season by the NCAA Clearinghouse because he had played with a professional, while playing basketball in Turkey. How the NCAA can suspend a player for an infraction that one organization considers right, while another organization (NCAA) believes its wrong is beyond me. But that's beyond the point. After sitting out the first two-thirds of the season, the 6'9", 265-pound mammoth of an inside presence is playing in his first collegiate basketball game.
His debut was impressive by any standards.
Going into a physical game like tonight's was an easy transition for the freshman. He scored in the paint- using his skill as an ambidextrous player, using both his left and right hands to put home short hook shots. He fought for position and crashed the offensive glass like he had something to prove. He even scored six straight points in a one-minute stretch, giving the Mountaineers a 10-point first half lead over the nation's 21st ranked Panthers. The West Virginia crowd graciously applauded Kilicli when he entered the game.
9 points on a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor, in just 7 minutes of playing time. His post play allowed forward Kevin Jones to float to the perimeter where the 6'8" Jones knocked down two 3s. Kilicli's post play and physicality will almost certainly draw double-teams or cause guards to dig down, in which the Turk can locate a guard, like Da'Sean Butler or Dalton Pepper on the wing for a 3-point shot.
As the #6 team in the nation without Deniz Kilicli, the West Virginia Mountaineers certainly looked like a better team with him. It's scary to think that Bob Huggins can work him in to an 18-3 team with at least 10 games remaining (9 regular season + Big East Tournament) in preparation for the NCAA Tournament.