Casey Mitchell pulls down 14 rebounds to lead West Virginia to victory

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia coach Bob Huggins joked that Casey Mitchell has suddenly become good at rebounding because he senses where his errant shots will end up.

Mitchell got his first career double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds to lead West Virginia (No. 21 AP) to a 56-46 win over South Florida on Sunday.

The Mountaineers (13-5, 4-2 Big East) overcame a poor shooting performance by grabbing 21 offensive boards and outrebounding South Florida 45-41.

Mitchell, West Virginia's leading scorer, entered the game averaging 3.6 rebounds. His previous high was eight against Mississippi last season.

"I told [South Florida coach Stan Heath] that he misses so many that he knows where they are going," Huggins said. "We've been on him to rebound the ball.

We need him to rebound the ball at both ends. We don't have real explosive guys in there so we need him to go to the boards."

Augustus Gilchrist had his third straight double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds for South Florida (7-14, 1-7). The Bulls lost for the 11th time in 13 games and remain winless in nine road games.

"To say it was an ugly game would be an understatement," Heath said. "It was brutal for both teams offensively. We couldn't throw it in the ocean."

John Flowers and Kevin Jones added 13 points apiece for West Virginia, which bounced back from a 75-71 loss to Marshall on Wednesday after entering the Top 25 for the first time this season.

"I was just trying to be more aggressive today," Mitchell said. "The last game, I waited too late to be more aggressive and I wanted to come out from the jump whether it was defending or scoring to just do something. Tonight it was rebounding.

"I was just trying to go play and play my hardest. I've been thinking about the game too much lately instead of just being aggressive. I just want to go out there and do whatever it takes to help my team win."

Despite holding South Florida to 31 percent (16 of 51) shooting, West Virginia had its own struggles. The Mountaineers' 56 points were well below their season average of 75 and eight fewer than their previous low for the season, a 64-61 win at Duquesne on Dec. 12.

West Virginia shot just 29 percent (9 of 31) after halftime and 33 percent overall.

Flowers followed Mitchell's missed 3-point try with a basket to cap a 9-0 run and West Virginia extended an 11-point halftime lead to 40-24 with 15:32 left.

South Florida eventually mounted one last comeback attempt. Jawanza Poland's 3-pointer with 1:44 left brought the Bulls within 47-41, but they got no closer.

For the second straight game, Jones missed much of the first half with foul trouble, but his absence wasn't missed like it was against Marshall.

In that game, West Virginia managed just 21 first-half points. On Sunday, West Virginia turned the tables on South Florida.

The Mountaineers got strong offensive rebounding to score several early baskets. Gilchrist kept South Florida close, but the Bulls went more than 10 minutes without a field goal and West Virginia took over.

Flowers' score with 2 minutes left in the half capped an 11-0 run and put the Mountaineers ahead 27-14. Mitchell had 10 points in the half.

Huggins credited a switch to a zone defense during the run for helping his team.

"We did a better job of limiting them to one shot out of the matchup for the most part during that stretch," Huggins said. "We got some easy baskets and some run outs and baskets doing transition."

West Virginia led 27-16 at halftime. It marked the fewest points allowed by West Virginia in the first half this season and the fewest scored by South Florida.

West Virginia will play three of its next four games on the road, starting Wednesday at Louisville (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP).