Week In Review
After a rough week in Orlando, Huggins got the Mountaineers back on track with a dominating 94-69 home victory against VMI. It looked a little hairy early, but we started to pull away half way through the first half and never looked back. Juwan Staten led the way once again with 18 points, but scoring was very balanced as seven players ended up in double figures. We shot the ball a little better and ended up at 45% on the game, and our free throw shooting was much improved as we went 17-21 (81%). Defensively, we played very well for the first 30 or so minutes before letting up late after the game was out of hand. Most impressive on defense were Keaton Miles and Gary Browne, who hounded the opposition all night and wound up with 4 and 2 steals. We held VMI Star Okoye to 14 points, 7 under his average.
I really liked our effort on defense against VMI and the balanced scoring. We have a lot of players who can make plays for us this year. Our transition game continues to impress, but we need to finish better. There were a couple of times we had numbers going down the court and just couldn’t finish the play. We also need to play a complete game. Granted, the game was out of hand, but we pretty much quit playing with 7 minutes left on the clock. That’s a bad habit to get into.
Next up was the Capital Classic in Charleston against Marshall. I said last week that I hated this game. After what I saw last night, I’m convinced the series needs to end. The game is always a foul fest and this year was no different with both teams combining for 45 personal fouls, 10 technical fouls, and 5 ejections. The ejections stemmed from an incident with 1:37 left in the game. Kilicli had just made a layup and Marshall’s Robert Guoff was on the floor. Guoff was on the floor and got awful upset about something. He responded by launching his leg straight up into Juwan Staten’s groin. It was absolutely intentional and completely classless. As Staten went down in pain, Hinds, Murray, Henderson, and Harris jumped onto the floor from the bench to defend their players. Per rule (leaving the bench), they had to be ejected. Guoff was also ejected and numerous technical fouls were assessed. It was an ugly scene and a low point in the series.
Did anyone notice Marshall Coach Tom Herion’s reaction to what happened? He immediately went to the officials crying for the WVU players who left the bench to be thrown out. Yes, while Huggins was on the floor trying to separate the players (and probably defend Staten from the crotch kicker), Herrion’s first concern is getting WVU players T’ed up and thrown out. What a guy. This is one of Herrion’s finer moments, right up there with the time he tried to win an Oscar for best death scene in a game against UCF.
The players must take a cue from their coach though. Marshall’s players, according to Kilicli, was running their mouths all game before resorting to cheap shots at the end. Kilicli was pretty candid after the game. Here are some of his post game quotes:
- “We are West Virginia; we are the state’s team. We have proven it over and over again. But we can’t do this.You know, we are the ones playing the big-time schedule. We’ve got higher [ranked] recruits. We can’t get into that. We can’t get into all that pushing and shoving and talking trash. We can’t get into that.”
- “[Marshall's players are] talking all the time. And I like it. I mean, I just laugh at it. They’re players and I talk to them. I’m always laughing at them. They get pissed off more, I think, when I do that”“
- “We always talk about it,” he said. “[Marshall's players] are the guys who want to be in our spot. This is one of the biggest games they play. And they played really hard. But they lost. It’s hard when you’re that pumped up and it’s one of your biggest games and it’s for the state and all your fans. When you lose, it’s hard. But you cannot do that, try to hit people and all that. But it’s OK. We won the game and that’s all the matters. The Marshall seniors don’t have a chance again. They can do whatever they want to do now.”
Gotta love the Turk. I think he’d agree with me- it’s time to end this series. It’s a no win proposition for us. It’s Marshall’s Super Bowl and just another game for us. Nothing to gain from winning, everything to lose from losing. And it’s always a dirty game- Marshall acts like clowns. We’d be much better served by replacing Marshall with an annual game against a team like Xavier or Dayton.
For the game itself, I thought the Mountaineers continued to improve. Their defense was, again, very tough. We still couldn’t shoot well from the field (37%) but did finish at 80% on free throws. WVU was led by Deniz Kilicli, who finished up with 21 points. Kilicli and Murray were dominating inside at times. Staten had another fine game at point guard and finished up with 18 points. It was just a solid win in a tough environment on a night neither team could shoot well.
Player of the Week: Keaton Miles.
Miles has reemerged as a contributor for the Mountaineers. He contributed 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 6 steals over 55 minutes in 2 games. What the stats don’t show is just how solid his defense has been. Glad to see him stepping up.
Coming Up Next Week
Saturday 12/8: Home against Virginia Tech
Tuesday 12/11: At Duquesne
Our first big home test of the year comes in front of a sellout on Saturday against Virginia Tech. The Hokies are 7-0 and their most impressive wins have been against Iowa and #15 Oklahoma State. They also beat VMI 95-80. They are led by senior guard Erick Green, who is averaging 25 points and 4 assists per game. The Hokies rank 3rd in the country with 86 points per game and are giving up 72 points per game. Our defense should hold VT to well under their average and give us a decent chance to win. This is a very important early season game- we need a confidence booster and a solid win on our tournament resume.
The following Tuesday we travel to Pittsburgh for the annual game against Duquesne. The Dukes struggled early, losing 3 of their first 4 games but have rebounded by winning three of their last 4. However, they have lost the only two game they’ve played against good teams (Georgetown and Pitt). The Dukes don’t seem too intimidating as they rank in the bottom half of D-I averaging only 68 points per game against mostly weak competition. On the surface, this game shouldn’t be anything to worry about. But this has the feeling of a trap game. We’ll be coming off a game against old rival Virginia Tech and looking forward to a matchup in New York against a highly ranked Michigan team. The last thing we need is a loss to Duquesne on our record, so hopefully we don’t overlook this game.
News and Notes
- Kevin Noreen and Dominique Rutledge both appeared to sprain their ankles against VMI. Noreen saw significant playing time against Marshall but Rutledge only saw 1 minute.
- What’s up with Matt Humphrey? He didn’t play at all against VMI and only saw 1 minute against Marshall. Aaron Brown hasn’t seen much time lately either.
- Huggins has been employing a trapping 1-3-1 for stretches, and it has been effective at times. Right now, it’s a work in progress- sometimes we leave players wide open for threes, but a fair amount of the time it generates a turnover or a bad shot. It’s definitely a nice monkey wrench to throw out there when we need a spark.
- Volodymyr Gerun is eligible to make his debut against Virginia Tech. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets any playing time and who sits to give him time, but he gives Huggins another option at forward and just adds to our depth. Gerun definitely has the tools to contribute.