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November 28, 2012After dropping two of three games in the Old Spice Classic, the West Virginia basketball team returned to Morgantown for their home season opener, ending the losing streak in convincing fashion with a 94-69 victory over the VMI Keydets.
While the Mountaineers wished to put the bad mojo of the Old Spice Classic behind them early, familiar problems crept up as the contest with VMI began.
After winning the opening tip, the Mountaineers drove to the basket in an effort to get a quick two points on the board. However, botched layup attempt and VMI rebound would instead lead to a Deniz Kilicli foul, his first of the game after only 17 seconds of play.
The foul trouble that plagued West Virginia in Orlando continued up to the first media timeout, particularly in the post. Kilicli would add a second foul, coupled with fouls from Kevin Noreen and Dominique Rutledge, to put the team behind the eight-ball early in fouls down low.
Along with the foul issues, the Mountaineers were unable to get many clean shots off, and shot themselves in the foot on a few occasions, as the Keydets took an 11-6 lead into the under 16:00 media timeout.
After starting out a cold 3-11 from the field, the Mountaineers rallied in the proceeding 4:00 span, racking off four of five field goal attempts to take the lead 16-11 at the under 12:00 media timeout.
The WVU Coliseum saw the regular season debuts of freshmen Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, and it would not be long before the young players made their presence felt. Coming off a noteworthy showing in the Old Spice Classic from a personal level, Henderson entered the game and quickly knocked down a three to end a lengthy West Virginia dry spell.
Not to be outdone, Harris notched a three-pointer of his own to help account for the quick West Virginia turnaround on the scoreboard.
The fast-paced West Virginia offense that devastated Marist last week made its return midway through the first half, as the Mountaineers went on a strong 24-7 run, taking a 30-18 lead into the under 8:00 media timeout.
After being held by the VMI defense to seconds on the shot clock multiple occasions earlier in the game, West Virginia took advantage of early holes in the VMI defense to drive the lane. Keaton Miles would take advantage of this on one occasion, driving the lane off the dribble and going up strong for the layup to extend the West Virginia lead.
The Mountaineers also found consistency in this stretch from the team overall, seeing nine different players score by the under 8:00 as the squad held on to a 30-18 lead.
It would be much on the same on West Virginia's ensuing possessions. Showcasing a faster offense, the Mountaineers would continue to exploit a slower, undersized opponent in the lane to push their lead, 43-27 at the under 4:00 timeout.
While West Virginia big man Kevin Noreen found himself wide open beyond the arc on multiple occasions early in the contest, the sophomore, not known for his shooting prowess, never pulled the trigger on an outside shot attempt.
Aaric Murray, however, was not afraid of the open attempt. In an attempt to clog up the post, the Keydets would play a man off Murray when he was in the game, leaving the junior open to knock down an outside three and extend the Mountaineers' lead to 14, with the assist from Aaron Brown.
Both Murray and Juwan Staten would prove to be West Virginia's star players in the first half, each leading the team in scoring with nine and 12 points, respectively.
After playing early in the first half, both Kevin Noreen and Dominique Rutledge went back into the locker room midway through the half for unknown reasons.
The Mountaineers entered the locker room with a comfortable 48-31 lead, highlighted by a 51 percent effort from the field and 7-7 effort from the free throw line.
With a comfortable lead exiting the locker room halftime, the Mountaineers would not take their feet off the accelerator, extending the lead, 58-35 at the under 16:00 timeout. This thanks in part to strong play from Murray.
The junior transfer from LaSalle would open up the half with two quick baskets, coupled with a block in between, within the first two minutes.
Add on a Staten fast-break tomahawk slam, off a missed VMI shot attempt, and the Mountaineers continued to roll through the half, at times with the same lineup they found success with in the first half.
Coach Bob Huggins has been clamoring for a consistent lineup the team can depend on throughout the season, and he appears to have found a strong mesh with Staten, Henderson, Harris, Browne and Murray.
A revolving-door of players would find their way onto the court during the remainder of the second half, but the core five above provided the Mountaineers with the bulk of stats throughout the contest.
After a rough start to the game, however, Kilicli would also find himself back into the thick of West Virginia's lineup after playing only two minutes in the first half. "The Turk" recorded an impressive 11 points, 13 of which in the second half, becoming the Mountaineers' go-to-guy as the game winded down.
Kilicli would also answer detractors from the free throw line against VMI, going a perfect 3-3 from the line and adding to West Virginia's impressive, 13-14, 93 percent free throw shooting night.
Along with Kilicli, the Mountaineers also saw a brisk offensive output in the second half as the team crept closer to 100 points throughout the contest. With nine minutes left, West Virginia was sitting on 79 points with their eyes on triple-digits.
It took the squad five minutes to break 90, doing in in impressive fashion with a monster baseline slam from Henderson. The slam transitioned into a quick run for the Mountaineers, upping the score, 94-58, with 3:20 remaining in the contest.
But it just was not meant to be. The Mountaineers came six points short of the century mark as the final gun went off.
Final score: West Virginia 94, VMI 69.
The Mountaineers were led in scoring Wednesday night by Juwan Staten, notching 18 points in the victory; followed by Aaric Murray with 13 points, eight rebounds; Deniz Kilicli with 11 points; and Keaton Miles with a career-high11 points to round out the double-digit scorers.
Rounding out the West Virginia lineup: Eron Harris with nine, Terry Henderson with six, Aaron Brown with two, Jabarie Hinds with two and Dominique Rutledge rounding out scorers with two points.
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