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December 15, 2012

WVU drops heartbreaker to Michigan, Beilein 81-66

In his first appearance against West Virginia since leaving Morgantown for Ann Arbor, Michigan Head Coach John Beilein got the better of his former employer, as the third-ranked Wolverines took down the Mountaineers 81-66 Saturday in the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival.

The Wolverines won the opening tip and never looked back, going on a quick 13-2 run in the first two minutes of the game.

In typical Beilein fashion, Michigan would spark its early run thanks to a series of three-point shots. The guard trio of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas attacked West Virginia defense from a distance early, connecting on three consecutive three-point shots to account for the high-scoring open.

Michigan would tack on six more points leading up to the first media timeout, extending their early lead, 15-4.
While the start of the game was anything but memorable for the Mountaineers, it did give fans a potential look at the future. After sitting out the first eight games this season (six from suspension), sophomore Volodymyr Gerun made his debut in the Old Gold and Blue and quickly contributed, tipping in a pass from Dominique Rutledge.

Behind Gerun, the Mountaineers also found a little offensive spark from Eron Harris. The freshman would knock down a three pointer breaking Michigan's 10-0 run and building confidence for the West Virginia guards.
But even with spark, Michigan continued to hurt the Mountaineers, outrebounding West Virginia on both sides of the court and extending their lead, 25-13 at the under 12:00 media timeout.

Coming out of the timeout, Michigan proved themselves mortal from the field, missing a quick series of jumpers - a rarity for the Wolverines. West Virginia would take advantage of these misfires early, with pair of dribble-drives from Harris and Jabarie Hinds, cutting Michigan's lead to 10.

However, the Wolverines would not stay down for long. A string of turnovers by the Mountaineers allowed the Michigan offense to find its rhythm yet again. A backdoor cut by Mitch McGary further extended Michigan's lead, 30-17, at the under 8:00 media timeout.

Even though the Mountaineers were down big on the scoreboard, Bob Huggins' squad found the shooting spark they so desperately have needed thanks to the freshmen duo of Harris and Terry Henderson.

A successful three point attempt by Harris coming out of the media timeout that helped to pick up the squad as a whole offensively. The Mountaineers would go on a 12-2 run, including seven points from the freshman Henderson in this span, as West Virginia attacked the Beilein 1-3-1 with crisp shooting and slowed down Michigan's highly-touted offense.

The offensive spurt placed the Mountaineers back into the thick of the contest, but the Wolverines would come roaring back. Michigan guard Stauskas would hit his second three pointer of the night to end the Mountaineer's lengthy offensive run. The Wolverines would still lead at the under 4:00 media timeout, but the gap had shrunk to single-digits, - 37-29.

Both squads would exchange shots to close out the half, with the Wolverines getting the last laugh. A designed play to Burke resulted in a layup for the Michigan guard with seven seconds remaining in the half, extending Michigan's lead back to 11 - 43-32 - as the half came to a close.

The Mountaineers found themselves down by as much as 17 earlier in a half, but a key 12-2 run would allow Huggins' squad to claw their way back to within five. A late Michigan spurt resulted in the ultimate 11 point halftime deficit.
Much like the beginning of the game, the Wolverines came out strong in the second half, scoring on three consecutive possessions before a West Virginia timeout.

But even a break in the action could not halt the hot-handed Wolverines. Michigan would go on a 10-4 run, giving them their largest lead of the game at 18 points. A pair of free throws by Henderson would close the gap to 16, as Michigan took a 54-38 lead into the under 16:00 media timeout.

Defending Michigan's guard trio of Burke, Hardaway Jr. and Stauskas would continue to be a struggle for the Mountaineers, as the three accounted for all 10 of the Wolverine's points during their early second half run.
And the daggers from Michigan would continue. Exploiting even the smallest gaps in West Virginia's defense, the guards would go 4-5 from the field alone in the early period.

But while Michigan continued to shoot efficiently, the Mountaineers lost their offensive fire from the first half. With the first eight minutes of the second half, West Virginia found itself shooting an abysmal 2-12 from the field.
Eight points from the free throw line for the Mountaineers in this span kept the squad within sight of the lead, but Michigan continued to hold a comfortable 59-44 margin at the under 12:00 media timeout.

The Mountaineers would hang around for the remainder of the game, even cutting Michigan's lead to eight with five minutes remaining.

Along with Henderson, the solid guard play of Juwan Staten helped to cut into Michigan's lead. With the Mountaineers down 10, Staten would spark enthusiasm from the West Virginia faithful in the crowd, stealing the ball in the Michigan front court and driving in for the slam dunk to cut into the deficit.

Henderson would continue to contribute offensively on the ensuing possession, knocking down a corner three to close the gap yet again to seven after a Michigan layup.

But the late spark would not be enough to overcome the firepower of the Wolverines. Michigan would again regain control of the game offensively, pushing their lead back into double-digits out of the under 4:00 media timeout, where it would remain.

Desperation attempts by the Mountaineers from beyond the three-point arc consistency clanked off the rim while the Wolverines did what they needed to do in closing out the game.

Final score: West Virginia 66, Michigan 81.

Despite the loss, there were a few bright spots against Michigan that West Virginia can build off of moving forward into Big 12 conference play; most notably, the performances of the freshmen Eron Harris and Terry Henderson. The duo finished the night leading the team in scoring (Harris with 10 points, and Henderson with 23) for the second time of the season.

Along with the freshman, Juwan Staten also had a strong performance, finishing with 12 points and five assists. Rounding out scoring for the Mountaineers: Gary Brown with eight points; Jabarie Hinds and Keaton Miles each chipped in four points; Kevin Noreen and Volodymyr Gerun had two points a piece; and Dominique Rutledge closes out the box score with one point.

West Virginia finished the game shooting 39 percent from the field, showcasing the continued struggles for the squad on offense.

The Mountaineers will be back in action Wednesday, December 19 at home against Oakland. Tip off will be 9pm.


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