“You don’t get frustrated — in the beginning, you just play,” cautioned Deniz Kilicli, leaning on positive affirmation as he copes with the statistical calamity of his first four games: 14 fouls, 14 turnovers and 14 field goals.
West Virginia’s top returning scorer, the lone senior in the starting lineup, has been overlooked in the post at times and largely ineffective at converting points on the passes he has gotten. With a game mostly built on biceps and board work, Kilicli isn’t the kind of offensive player expected to carry this team, but neither is he expected to shoot only 41 percent from the floor and, sheez, 33 percent from the foul line.
Come Wednesday night’s home opener against undersized VMI (3-3), the power forward hopes to be more efficient for the slow-starting Mountaineers (1-3), and being efficient begins with avoiding foul trouble.
“I had a game that I had three offensive fouls,” said the 6-foot-9, 265-pound Kilicli. “I am too strong for people, I guess. I don’t know. They just keep falling everywhere. This is my body and I can’t help it. When I hit people they fall down. It just looks bad.
“It is frustrating because those are turnovers. Every game I have two offensive fouls, and that’s ridiculous.”
WEDNESDAY: VMI (3-3) at West Virginia (1-3)
TIME: 7 p.m. Eastern
TELEVISION: Root Sports
RADIO: MSN network
At the risk of sounding like a whiner, Kilicli reminded us Tuesday afternoon that “referees are human beings, too” — a gracious remark considering the late-game technical he received for merely raising his arms to attract an entry pass and inadvertently hitting Oklahoma defender Andrew Fitzgerald in the chin.
“I didn’t mean to knock anybody’s tooth out. I didn’t mean to elbow anybody,” Kilicli said. “I’m going to try to keep it as clean as possible … but I’m a strong guy.”
Not a strong foul shooter, however, hitting 55 percent during his first three years and opening his senior season even more erratically. Missing 3-of-4 against the Sooners dropped Kilicli to 6-of-18 this season, a perplexing stat for a player who charts out at 75 percent in practice, according to WVU coach Bob Huggins.
“Free-throw shooting is more mental than anything,” Kilicli said. “When you miss one, you shouldn’t think about the miss before the next one. I’m an emotional player and I have trouble not thinking about the misses and other stuff I do wrong.
“All I can do is work more — stay (after practice) and shoot 50 more or 100 more. That sort of builds more confidence up.”
As whistle-prone as Kilicli has been (14 fouls in 95 minutes), center Aaric Murray (14 in 84 minutes) and forward Kevin Noreen (11 fouls in 51 minutes) have been moreso.
“Aaric has fouled because he just doesn’t know how to play, but honestly, he’s trying,” Huggins said. “And if you look at it, they’ve got some tough calls.”
BROWNE OFF THE BENCH
Though no one is lighting it up for WVU on the offensive end, Gary Browne is tied for second on the team in scoring (9.3), playing 20 minutes per game as a reserve.
“I don’t care what role I’m playing — I just want to win,” said the sophomore guard from Puerto Rico. “I just want to let the guys know that if we do things right and hustle, we can win the game.”
West Virginia’s struggles are somewhat mitigated by losses to No. 12 Gonzaga (6-0), Oklahoma (4-1) and Southern Conference favorite Davidson (2-3), which returned its top eight scorers from last season’s 25-8 NCAA tournament squad.
“All those teams are tournament teams … and when you play those kind of teams you need to play every play,” Kilicli said. “We’ve got to be sharp when the game comes down to a possession or two.
“If you watch the Gonzaga game and then the Oklahoma game, you see two different teams. Getting better is all that matters. Finishing strong is more important than starting good.”
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