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December 19, 2012After dropping two straight contests and receiving an abundant of criticism from Head Coach Bob Huggins, the West Virginia men's basketball team rebounded Wednesday night at the WVU Coliseum, defeating a pesky Oakland University 76-71.
Despite experiencing many shooting woes to open up the season, the Mountaineers began Wednesday's matchup with a rare hot-streak from the field. Led by two early jumpers from Jabarie Hinds and a step-back three pointer from Terry Henderson, the Mountaineers quickly pulled out to a quick 8-4 lead.
But the Golden Grizzlies would come roaring back, thanks to an open three pointer from Travis Bader, one of the most efficient shooters in the country. The junior's basket began a 7-0 run for Oakland, which would push the underdog Golden Grizzlies into the lead at the under 16:00 media timeout, 11-10.
Oakland would continue to run on the Mountaineers coming out of the timeout, with Bader knocking down another quick three to extend their lead, 13-10.
And the Mountaineers would do little to slow down their progress. Despite holding a distinct height advantage against the Golden Grizzlies, West Virginia found itself out-rebounded 10-2 early.
West Virginia would find a sliver of offensive production from Gary Browne and Kevin Noreen in the paint, both off Aaric Murray assists, but Oakland's offensive efficiency helped them maintain a 19-14 lead at the under 12:00 media timeout.
Luck finally started to turn West Virginia's way in the ensuing span, with a quick offensive spurt that tied the game at 26 before the under 8:00 media timeout.
The Mountaineers found offense from beyond the arc as they attempted to close the gap, thanks to the hot-hands of Henderson and Aaric Murray. The freshman and the transfer both hit key three-point attempts off clean, open looks - something West Virginia has not been doing over the past week - to help even the score as the half winded down.
West Virginia would briefly tease those in attendance with the lead, with a Matt Humphrey three pointer pushing the Mountaineers on top 29-28 for the first time since the 16:06 mark in the first half.
But the Humphrey three would be the only slice of offense during this span, as Oakland slid its way to a 32-29 lead at the under 4:00 media time, thanks to four points from the Golden Grizzlies' Drew Valentine.
The last part of the half would start off ugly for the Mountaineers as Oakland would pull off another lengthy run - this time 11-2 - to pull in front 39-31 with just under two minutes remaining in the half.
West Virginia would not lie down, however, answering with a quick 6-0 run, highlighted by an awkward under-handed toss by Volodymyr Gerun under the basket for two.
The Gerun bucket closed the gap to two where it would remain at halftime. The Oakland Golden Grizzlies led West Virginia 39-37 in Morgantown at the half.
There were not a lot of positives for the Mountaineers to build off of when second half opened, as Oakland went on a quick 8-3 run, highlighted by two wide-open three-point baskets for the Golden Grizzlies in the first two minutes.
Coach Huggins, now sporting his traditional pullover after beginning the game in a suit, called a quick timeout to make adjustments to the defensive miscues; something Murray apparently took to heart.
Following the timeout, the La Salle transfer recorded three points, two blocks and two rebounds in a two minute span, to close Oakland's lead to four - 47-43 - at the under 16:00 media timeout.
The Mountaineers would draw momentum off that strong close out of the timeout, pushing forward on a 12-2 run to take a 52-49 lead.
But Oakland would not let the West Virginia get comfortable with the lead. The Golden Grizzlies' hot-handed Bader would kill the Mountaineer's run with a fadeaway three pointer, his 17 point of the night, to tie the game at 52.
Fortunately for the Mountaineers, Bader's foul trouble would catch up as the thorn in West Virginia's side would collect his fourth foul just prior to the media timeout.
With Bader on the bench, the Mountaineers would attack Oakland on the scoreboard thanks to a momentum-shifting offensive performance from Keaton Miles. The sophomore would step up for the Mountaineers out of the timeout with two-consecutive three pointers and a block as the Mountaineers took a 61-54 lead before an Oakland timeout.
Offensive fireworks would continue for the Mountaineers off a fast-break transition, with Gary Browne finding Dominique Rutledge open in the post for the alley-oop lob and slam, rocking the sparsely-populated WVU Coliseum.
The two teams would then trade three pointers, giving West Virginia a 66-60 lead with just over seven minutes remaining.
While West Virginia thought momentum was on their side, Oakland would not go down without a fight. The Golden Grizzlies would go on an 11-4 run heading into the game's final media timeout, closing the gap to two.
From here, both squads would continue to scrap back and forth for the victory. A made free throw by Murray would push West Virginia's lead to three out of the timeout, but one short minute later that gap would disappear.
With four fouls, Bader would step up and knock down an open three pointer to tie the game at 71 with two and a half minutes remaining.
The stalemate would not last long, however, as the Mountaineers, running their offense in an effort to slow the tempo, found Gary Browne for a mid-range jumper as the shot clock winded down to take a two point lead.
A missed jumper by Duke Mondy on the ensuing series would put the ball back in West Virginia's hands with just over a minute remaining, but a Staten travel would give Oakland another opportunity with 30 seconds on the clock.
A front-court foul by Murray on Oakland's Valentine would put the young player on the free throw line for a one-and-one, down two with 18 seconds remaining. Valentine would miss on the front end of the one-and-one, with Murray grabbing the board.
The junior would make one of two from the free throw line, pushing the Mountaineers ahead by three.
Utilizing the reliable Bader, Oakland would have one last attempt to send the game into overtime. But their leading scorer was unable to connect on the three point attempt. A rebound and subsequent pair of foul shots by Murray would put the game away for West Virginia.
Final score: West Virginia 76, Oakland 71.
The Mountaineers would share the wealth in the box score Wednesday night, as 11 of 12 players who made an appearance recorded points. The squad was led by four double-digit performances from Aaric Murray with 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks; Juwan Staten with 11 points, five assists; and Terry Henderson and Keaton Miles each with 10 points.
West Virginia will play next at the Coliseum this Saturday against Radford. Tip off is at 4pm.
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