The Times West Virginian

Sports

November 5, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Penalties aplenty in exhibition

MORGANTOWN — For West Virginia it was “home tweet home” Monday night in the Coliseum.

It may have been a nice evening outside, but inside it was foul ... oh, so foul for Fairmont State, which fouled out five players and committed 40 of the 63 fouls in West Virginia’s 89-70 exhibition basketball game Monday night.

It wasn’t that Fairmont State was careless in committing those fouls. More like callous, for in college basketball this year they are emphasizing a whole group of hand checking rules that were hidden away in the books last year but have been brought to the forefront.

The result of it?

“They’re going to sell a lot of beer,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said after his team won easily despite scoring only 20 field goals to 25 for Fairmont State, the difference being the down time making 37 of 54 free throws in as ugly a basketball game as you are going to experience.

And experience it you will because they are serious about it this season, enough so that WVU’s Eron Harris can walk away from the game with 30 points in 30 minutes, 15 of those points and seemingly 15 of those minutes coming at the free throw line.

Not that it came naturally. Huggins had his team working on keeping their hands off defenders every day, nearly all day.

And how does he let you know?

“You put your hands on a guy, you don’t want that,” said WVU guard Gary Browne, who had 18 points while hitting 12 of 15 free throws while being the only player in the game to play more than two minutes without committing a personal foul.

The thing is, everyone had best get used to it, though, including the officials.

“I feel bad for the officials ... and I can’t believe I said that,” said Huggins.

Huggins believes that they have the officials concentrating so heavily on this that they are missing walking and palming and letting players get away with things while blocking shots because it’s so easy to get to the basket with no one able to physically check you.

It didn’t work that way for Fairmont coach Jerrod Calhoun, whose players kept marching to the bench as the student section chanted “Left, Right, Left, Right” over and over and over and over.

“I went down and saw Duke play and Coach K started ranting and raving and next thing you know they called nine in a row for him. I definitely don’t like the rules,” Calhoun said.

Other than that, his team played well, only nine turnovers and outrebounded just 44 to 41, but they were overmatched if not overwhelmed.

Terry Henderson, who figures to be one of the key parts of the WVU lineup, was missing for the game with an inflammation of the shin but the Mountaineers got an unexpected bonus when Remi Dibo, a French import, had healed from a torn meniscus and played briefly.

With Henderson out, WVU started Juwan Staten and Eron Harris at the guards with Kevin Noreen and freshmen Nathan Adrian and Devin Williams up front.

The first thing to be settled on this opening night of basketball was that Adrian, who came from down the street at Morgantown High, is not bashful in the least.

He took the first shot of the game, a 3, and it went swish in the night.

By the time the Mountaineers had taken five shots, he had four of them, two 3 pointers made, and WVU was off to a quick 9-2 lead.

Fairmont State hung tough, though, waiting for the Mountaineers’ shots to stop falling, and that happened as they roared into a 9-9 tie before Harris canned a pair of free throws and Staten broke loose for an acrobatic, high-flying dunk.

Fairmont State was running into big foul trouble as the half transpired, collecting 10 before 10 minutes were up, putting WVU into two shots.

But they found a way to stay close, not pushing into the lead to keep it within two to five points even though Adrian and Harris continued to drop bombs on them.

They could not, however, fight through the rash of fouls that besieged them. With 3:09 left in the half, they had committed 19 fouls to just seven for WVU. The result was WVU had made 19 free throws to 7 for Fairmont State, the lead growing to 13 points.

As the half wore down, so did the Falcons, and the half ended with FSU possessing just 11 more points than fouls, trailing WVU, 45-33.

The second half was more the same out of the gate, meaning Adrian threw in yet another 3 from the start, his fourth in just seconds over a half, and the whistle started blowing and blowing ... and blowing some more.

By the middle of the second half it was reaching a point of frustration as 7-footer Martins Abele, who played last year at Duquesne, was whistled for his fourth technical, said something like “nice call” to the official, or maybe not, for he was hit with a technical, which fouled him out with more than 13:30 to play.

As the game turned 10 minutes left, Fairmont State fouled out a second player, Chase Morgan, giving them 34 fouls in the game and Harris had pushed his point total to 27 points.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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