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October 18, 2013

Huggins debuts 2013-2014 squad at Gold-Blue Debut

"We actually have 1.6 million West Virginians. 200,000 of those are ill-advised and wear green and white."

That jab by Coach Bob Huggins against West Virginia's rival to the south - the Marshall Thundering Herd - helped to open up the 2013-2014 Mountaineer basketball season in Morgantown.

With a disappointing 2012-2013 season in the rearview mirror, the latest addition of Coach Huggins' Mountaineers took to the court Friday night, opening up the new season in front of an excited Coliseum crowd for the Gold-Blue Debut.

Adding a little extra flavor to the show, the Mountaineers opened up this year's show with a slam-dunk competition. With the field limited to guards Eron Harris, Terry Henderson and Tyrone Hughes, the players took to the court, having 90 seconds apiece to complete three dunks in front a panel of judges.

While Henderson and Hughes put forth their best effort, Harris would come out on top with a trio of impressive dunks for a 6'2 guard. The sophomore capped off his performance with a leap over teammate Gary Browne to seal the 2013 crown.

From there, the team transitioned into an intra-squad scrimmage, officially opening up the new season to the public. The Mountaineers split into two respective squads for the contest - gold against blue - with the gold squad led by Juwan Staten, Eron Harris and Kevin Noreen, while the blue squad showcased Terry Henderson, Gary Browne and Jonathan Holton. The teams squared off in three ten-minute periods.

Once the scrimmage got underway both teams appeared to be rather evenly matched, with both squads swapping baskets early on in the contest and no one player standing out from the other.

JUCO transfer Jonathan Holton, who continues to have eligibility questions entering the season, made his mark early in the game, connection on his first points with a breakaway slam off the Terry Henderson assist. The basket would tie the game up at nine with three minutes remaining in the period.

The blue squad would manage to take a slight lead over their intra-squad opponent right before the break, with freshman Devin Williams connecting on a buzzer-beating floater as time expired. The blue squad headed into the 10 minute break holding a 15-13 advantage, with neither team showcasing any extraordinary play.

Offensively, both squads appeared to live and die based off the guard play. Early on, it was evident as to Coach Huggins' approach on offense, with a bulk of the production coming from Harris, Henderson and Staten.

Coming off a strong close to the 2012-2013 season, Harris appeared to pick up right where he left off in Friday night's showcase. The sophomore guard looked strong defensively, matching up for much of the game against Browne and Henderson while getting the best of both.

Harris would make his presence known offensively as well, knocking down a clutch corner three pointer early in the second period to cut into the blue team's lead, 20-16.

Even with the strong performances from player the returning veterans were not the only players enjoying the spotlight Friday. True freshman, and Morgantown native, Nathan Adrian showed his skills in the second period, driving the lane against fellow freshman Devin Williams for the easy floater, cutting into the blue team's lead further, 20-18.

However, the guards continued to dominate the offensive equation in the contest. A rapid sequence late in the second period helped to push both teams forward throughout the game. Both Staten and Henderson put together consecutive dribble-drives to the basket against their respective defenders to dominate the offensive show and extend the scoring mark. A pair of drives from both Henderson and Staten, with both guards getting great penetration for the easy layups, put the score at 26-24 heading into the break.

Exiting the break, the blue team went on a fast offensive run, with Hughes knocking down a three and helping to extend the lead, 32-26.

The blue team continued to get the best of its gold counterpart on both sides of the ball midway through the third period, with a blue steal and breakaway dunk by Williams extending the lead further, 34-27.

A Harris turnaround floater helped cut into the lead slightly, but the size and quickness on the blue squad continued to dominate the overall play. Another dominating series, highlighted by a sloppy Brandon Watkins turnover on gold and leading to a Henderson slam, put blue in a rather comfortable position, up 38-29.

The gold squad would not give up the contest easily, thanks in part to a strong performance from its younger members. A corner three pointer by Adrian, the second-leading scorer on the gold squad, kept the team within six at 38-32.

However it would not be enough. The blue squad would manage to hold on in the final minutes to take a victory in a rather sloppy overall performance, 41-32.

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