It was sweet redemption for the West Virginia basketball team.
After losing in blowout fashion to Gonzaga last week, the Mountaineers regained their composure against the Marist Red Foxes Thursday in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic, winning 87-44.
Unlike in last week's loss against Gonzaga, Coach Bob Huggins appeared to play with the starting lineup against Marist. The sixth-year West Virginia coach put in Juwan Staten, Jabarie Hinds, Aaron Brown, Kevin Noreen and Deniz Kilicli to open up play.
The Mountaineers opened up the game with quick guard play, smothering the Red Foxes at the front court. Juwan Staten excited a biased West Virginia crowd, stealing the ball from Marist's T.J. Curry on their second possession of the game. Staten fed the ball to Aaron Brown and then to Jabarie Hinds, who weaved through a pair of Marist defenders for the first bucket of the game.
From there, it appeared that West Virginia had trouble building up momentum in the first half. Both the Mountaineers and Red Foxes exchanged blows early on, most of which coming down low from Marist's big man Adam Kemp.
The 6-10 junior had his way as the Mountaineers attempted to find an answer to the post game. After giving up an early basket to Kemp, Huggins replaced him on the floor with Matt Humphrey and Noreen splitting defensive duties against the big man.
Noreen would provide a spark in the first half for the Mountaineers. The sophomore forward would provide a disturbing presence on defense, and give the Mountaineers second-chance opportunities on offense.
After going down 6-5 early, the Mountaineers went on a swift 9-0 run, sparked by a Noreen put-back and fast-break jam by Humphrey.
The run also showcased a high-paced West Virginia offense, many fans have said the team has been lacking as of late. The hustling squad demonstrated a new fast-break prowess thanks in part to a five steal showing during the run, pushing the Mountaineers to a 15-9 lead at the 12:00 media timeout.
West Virginia appears to have been working on its transition defense as well following the Gonzaga loss. The Mountaineers would force Marist's hand on a number of possessions, stopping any fast-break attempts by the young MEAC squad, including one Curry drive halted by a vicious Keaton Miles block.
But the real story of the first half was Terry Henderson. The freshman guard exploded offensively for the Mountaineers in the first half, showcasing high-flying abilities with a big dunk and an extended range, knocking down a huge three-pointer to extend West Virginia's lead, 24-9, at the 8:00 media timeout.
The team came out of the latest media timeout with the same fire power they had been showing, going up 42-16 in the proceeding four minute span.
While Henderson got all the love throughout the first part, Eron Harris joined in on the fun prior to the under 4:00 timeout. The freshman moved into the lineup around the 10:00 mark and quickly made his presence felt, scoring seven points in that span including a big alley-oop dunk from Hinds.
It was much of the same to close out the half for the Mountaineers. The squad's pair of freshman - Henderson and Harris - led the Mountaineers in scoring throughout the half with 14 and nine points, respectively, as West Virginia entered the locker room holding a comfortable 51-19 lead.
Coming out of the gate with a similar defensive fire from the first half, but relaxing a bit on offense, West Virginia scored only four in the first five minutes, heading into the 16:00 timeout, extending the lead, 55-21.
Early in the second half, the Mountaineers also saw the game debut of Aaric Murray. The junior did not appear in the game throughout the first half, despite leading the squad in scoring at the team's last outing against Gonzaga.
Despite being on the bench in the first half, Murray was still seen cheering on his teammate and being the most vocal supporter of the squad during that period.
The 6-10 center's presence in the game was also welcome, as Murray provided the Mountaineers with a strong post presence for the remainder of the contest. In only eight minutes of play to begin the second half, Murray notched six points and four rebounds, as the Mountaineers entered the under 12:00 mark with a 63-26 lead.
Throughout the remainder of the game, fans in Orlando would see much of the same from the Mountaineers. Hot shooting, fluid offense and smothering defense continued to be the norm as Huggins' squad improves to 1-1 on the season.
Final score: West Virginia 87, Marist 44.
The Mountaineers were led in scoring by Terry Henderson. The freshman surprised a bulk of West Virginia fans with athletic play and great offensive prowess en route to a 14 point game; all from the first half.
Fellow freshman Eron Harris would also chip in 15 points of his own to cap off a big game.
The trio of transfers for the Mountaineers continued to showcase their abilities nicely for the Mountaineers. Despite only playing the second half, Aaric Murray impressed in the post, putting up 10 points and five rebounds, while Matt Humphrey contributed double-digits himself with 10.
Juwan Staten, on the other hand, struggled at times, scoring only six points and recording only one assist.
Rounding out the lineup for the Mountaineers: Jabarie Hinds, 11 points; Deniz Kilicli, six points, seven rebounds; Kevin Noreen, three points, five rebounds; Gary Browne, sixpoints, three assists; and Keaton Miles, six points.
The Mountaineers will play again tomorrow at 12:30 against the winner of Vanderbilt/Davidson. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.