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December 8, 2012
West Virginia renewed an old rivalry with Virginia Tech Saturday night in Morgantown with successful results. Led by the 14 points and 12 rebounds of Kevin Noreen, the Mountaineers pulled off a nail-biting victory over the previously undefeated, 68-67.
The Mountaineers would win the opening tip and quickly attack Virginia Tech with a facet of their game that has not been seen much this season - a three pointer from one of the most unlikely targets.
After sitting on the bench for both Marshall and Oklahoma, Aaron Brown earned his third start of the season.
Saturday against the Hokies, despite shooting only 1-14 from the field this entire season. Brown would quickly waste thoughts of early season struggles, nailing a three on the Mountaineers' first possession.
The attempts would continue for the Mountaineers from beyond the arc, as West Virginia would attempt three long attempts in the first four minutes, a far cry from the six attempts the squad took all game against Marshall.
Deniz Kilicli would tack on three points of his own - two from a mid-range jumper and one on the free throw line - to tie the game at six during the under 16:00 media timeout.
Although shooting started out strong in the first half for West Virginia, the Mountaineers quickly went cold from the field, making only one basket in the ensuing four minutes - a follow-up dunk from Terry Henderson that energized the capacity-crowd at the Coliseum.
The Hokies, however, would find offensive struggles of their own. Entering Saturday's contest, the 7-0 Virginia Tech squad was third in the country in points-per-game, averaging just over 86 ppg.
With smothering defense, the Mountaineers were able to halt the typically up-tempo Hokie attack, resulting in a low-scoring 9-8 Virginia Tech lead at the under 12:00 media timeout.
But the defensive stalemate would not last for long, thanks to an unlikely source of offense - Kevin Noreen.
The sophomore forward found himself in the right places and the right times as the half closed out, cleaning up in the paint and hitting open looks; an area of his game that he has always been hesitant to even attempt.
Noreen's six points pushed the Mountaineers into the lead at the under 8:00 media timeout - 21-15.
And the offensive onslaught would continue for the Mountaineers. West Virginia would go on a 10-0 run, ending with a big three-point jumper by Jabarie Hinds, to extend their lead to 10 - 27-17 - at the under 4:00 media timeout.
But the Hokies would not stay down for long. Attacking the Mountaineers with a slew of quick shot attempts and drives into the paint, the Hokies would close out the half with a 9-3 run.
Despite the sloppy play at the end of the half, with West Virginia scoring only three points in the final five minutes and boasting a mere 36 percent shooting from the field, the Mountaineers entered the locker room with a 30-24 lead.
The Mountaineers would find a bulk of their production in the first half from the post, with Aaric Murray, Noreen and Kilicli leading the team in scoring.
But it was the performance of Noreen, in particular, that truly turned some heads. The sophomore forward led the team in rebounding at halftime with eight and blocks with two, providing the Mountaineers with consistent production on both sides of the court.
The Hokies would continue their hot-streak coming out of the locker room, going on a 14-4 run and grabbing their first lead of the half.
After going cold throughout the first half from the field, shooting only 33 percent, the typical hot-handed Hokies squad regained their composure thanks to the efforts of guards Robert Brown and Erick Green.
West Virginia would find a sliver of offensive hope thanks to an Aaric Murray three, his second of the game, leading to a 36-36 tie at the under 16:00 media timeout.
While the Hokies were not shooting nearly up to par, clanking a number of outside shots, their strong guard play continued to produce in the paint. The Mountaineers found themselves in trouble on a number of occasions as Brown and Green would continue to blast by West Virginia defenders in the Hokies' fast-break offense.
But the Mountaineers would not die completely. Foul trouble for Virginia Tech placed the Mountaineers in the bonus early as the squad attempted to, as usual, find a consistent offensive threat.
At the under 12:00 media timeout the Hokies held a 46-41 lead, placing a stranglehold on a number of West Virginia's starters. But in search of a player to step-up, the Mountaineers found one in Kevin Noreen.
The forward, affectionately known as "Sweat" by his teammates, knocked down back-to-back threes, the first two of his career, and giving himself a first career double-double in the process.
After hitting his first three at the 11:28 mark the Mountaineers would go on a roll, connecting on six consecutive three-point attempts, with Gary Brown, Eron Harris and Keaton Miles joining Noreen with three-point successes.
The Hokies, however, would answer as best they could, maintaining a 54-53 lead at the under 8:00 media timeout.
Virginia Tech's lead, however, would be quickly vanquished at the hands of Harris. Coming out of the timeout, the freshman two free throws and his second-consecutive three-pointer, pushing West Virginia back out front 58-54 at the under 4:00 media timeout.
With a nail-biting close on the horizon, both teams would exchange blows coming out of the media timeout.
West Virginia would hold a two point lead with just over 30 seconds remaining when Virginia Tech would call a timeout. Out of the huddle, the Hokies would attempt a drive to the basket with Green.
Blocked off by Murray, Green would kick the ball out to his teammate Brown. The guard would bank in a three pointer, giving the Hokies a one point advantage with 14 seconds remaining.
The Mountaineers would call a quick timeout, setting up an inbounds play to Juwan Staten for the quick drive to the hoop. The Dayton transfer would nail a key layup, putting West Virginia up 68-67 with three seconds remaining.
The Hokies would call a timeout and attempt to draw up a buzzer-beating shot for the win, but it was thwarted.
Final score: West Virginia 68, Virginia Tech 67.
West Virginia was lead in scoring Saturday by Aaric Murray, who utilized his dominating post presence en route to a 14 point night.
Murray was joined on top of the box by Kevin Noreen, setting a career high in points and rebounds with 14 points, 12i boards en route to a double-double night.
The big men were joined in double-figures by Eron Harris who scored 10 points on the night.
The Mountaineers return to the court Tuesday night in Pittsburgh against Duquesne.
West Virginia NEWS