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January 3, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: WVU men upbeat for Big 12 weekend trip

MORGANTOWN — This TV viewer thought the West Virginia University men’s basketball team certainly played one of its best overall games of the season in the 82-45 victory against William & Mary.

The Mountaineers (8-5) seemed to perform better against the Tribe (6-5) than they did in even two or three of those contests against tougher opponents that they could or should have beaten.

In front of 8,885 fans at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum, WVU sparkled. The Mountaineers shot nearly 50 percent from the field (30-of-61) while limiting William & Mary to just 25.9 percent (14-of-55 shots).

They also out-rebounded the Tribe by 16, converted 14-of-15 free throws (93.3 percent), and made 8-of-23 attempts from 3-point range.

It also was encouraging to see West Virginia have four players score in double figures. That was greater than it has been so far this campaign in non-conference play.

Particularly outstanding was the performance of former Morgantown High School All-Stater Nathan Adrian.

In just 15 minutes of action, the 6-foot-9, 230-pound freshman forward scored 16 points on unbelievably sharp shooting. Adrian made 6-of-7 field goals, 4-of-5 from 3-point range, and came up with one rebound. He also had one blocked shot and a steal.

He was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week as an honor.

Not bad for a rookie who’s still learning the system under veteran head coach Bob Huggins.

As he continues to develop his skills, Adrian might well make a significant difference in how well the Mountaineers fare in their second year as a Big 12 Conference competitor.

Making his collegiate career scoring high even more impressive, 14 of Adrian’s 16 points came after he had suffered a broken nose.

Absolutely amazing! It reminded me of when Hall of Famer Jerry West led West Virginia to the Kentucky Invitational Tournament Championship in December 1957.

West, then a sharpshooting sophomore, had his nose broken in the opening 77-70 win against the host Wildcats. Then he went on to earn the KIT Most Valuable Player award in a 75-64 title-taking conquest of defending national champion North Carolina the next night.

Getting back to the Mountaineers’ rout of W&M, sophomore guard Terry Henderson tallied a game-high 19 points. Junior guard Juwan Staten had 15 points and team-highs 10 rebounds and six assists. Sophomore Eron Harris rounded out the five double-digit WVU scorers with 10 points.

Newcomer Remi Dibo, a 6-foot-7 junior college transfer forward, chipped in nine points, six rebounds and three assists coming off the bench.

Huggins and his players believe the young team will be a better fit to compete in the upcoming 18 games in the Big 12 than WVU was a year ago. WVU went 6-12 in the league during 2012-13.

The Mountaineers return to action on the road for a two-game set in “Cowboy Country.” They visit TCU (9-3) to play a 4 p.m. conference season’s opener on Saturday. The Big 12 Network will televise the game.

Then they will move on to Texas Tech (8-5) for a game on Monday at 7 p.m.

Ironically, WVU defeated both of those schools twice last year. The scores were 71-50 and 63-50 versus TCU; 77-61 and 66-64 against Texas Tech.

The WVU men’s team does not perform at home again until Saturday, Jan. 11, when Oklahoma State visits the Coliseum. Two nights later, Texas will come in for a Monday contest.

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