The Times West Virginian

December 3, 2013

Mountaineers make quick work of Greyhounds

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — A day before West Virginia was to play what seemed to be a dangerous Loyola of Maryland basketball team at the Coliseum, coach Bob Huggins talked for some time in depth about shortcomings his team had been displaying and about how they would have to overcome them to become a good team.

In no particular order, he noted that their rebounding was suspect and had to improve, that their free throw shooting was mysteriously deficient, and he talked of how he needed a healthy and productive Terry Henderson to perform at his best for the team to perform at its best.

One 96-47 victory later, all those problems had been miraculously solved.

Free throwing shooting?

All West Virginia did was make 19 of 22, shooting 86.4 percent compared to the 64.2 percent they had shot for the season.

Rebounding?

This one is difficult to imagine. Going into the game they were averaging 34.6 rebounds per game, actually being outrebounded by their opponents.

In this game they pulled down 62 rebounds, the most since Dec. 2, 1991, against Radford when they collared 94.

Impossible as it is to believe, they had 62 rebounds to 47 points for the Greyhounds.

And as for Henderson, while he wasn’t player of the game he was his old self again after battling injury, scoring 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting that included 2 of 2 from 3-point range, adding three rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Coach Huggins was thrilled about the rebounding, but Huggins is Huggins and he isn’t exactly going to show it outwardly.

“You get 62 rebounds by missing a lot of shots,” he said. “Obviously, coming back from Cancun I wasn’t very happy about how we rebounded the ball. We emphasized that a great deal. It was better, but (junior guard) Juwan Staten was the only one who really did what I asked. He put his body on people.”

Staten did not have the offensive game he has been having, hitting only 2 of 10 shots, but he still nearly had a double-double with 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Also suffering offensively, at least through the first half, was Eron Harris, who came on strong in the second half with 12 points to finish with 14. Part of the first-half troubles may have been because he was exerting great effort defensively on Loyola’s top scorer Dylon Cormier, who came in averaging 28 points a game but had only six at the half.

“When I play defense against a good player, I turn it up 10 notches,” Harris said.

The biggest lift of all for the Mountaineers came from junior Kevin Noreen, a starter who is not known for his scoring. Noreen, in fact, was averaging 2.4 points per game coming in.

One shot into the game he had surpassed that, hitting a 3, to match his total 3s from a year ago.

He played inspirational ball, rebounding, scoring, diving on the floor, finishing with 13 points, one short of his career high, seven rebounds and an assist.

“I have to start looking for shots,” Noreen said. “If not, I’m not a threat and they won’t cover me.”

That was how Loyola approached this game, concentrating on Staten and Harris and leaving Noreen alone.

“I took the opportunities when they were there,” he said.

The result was a different look to a Mountaineer team that was far too entertaining to be playing in front of a crowd of 4,692, the smallest crowd since New Hampshire on Dec. 21, 2004, when 4,323 showed up.

 The only section that was full housed the pep band. Even the student section cried out in indifference.

“I’ve said we have loyal fans,” Huggins said. “We just have 4,000 of them. Other places have 14,000 of them.”

Noreen was forgiving of the crowd.

“I understand why they all haven’t come back yet. Honestly, I don’t think we have quite earned it,” he said. “I’m hoping with our play we’ll get the fan support and get them back in the seats, but for now we have to keep playing hard and that we respect them for spending their hard-earned money. I don’t think we quite did that last season. We probably turned a lot of people off, and we want to get them back on board.”

There were a couple of other things of note. Remi Dibo brought the crowd to its feet with a spectacular save of a ball while flying out of bounds, adding to the 19 points he scored on 6 of 8 shooting, 5 of 7 from 3.

And then there was Nathan Adrian, making the best of a bad situation when he threw up an air ball from maybe six inches away from the basket but somehow grabbed the rebound and flipped it out to Dibo for a 3.

He had turned an embarrassing air ball into a rebound and assist on the same play.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.