The first few minutes of the game was more of the same from Gonzaga - missed shots, turnovers, maybe a stray rebound, followed up by another miss from point blank range. Fortunately, Marist was allergic to the basketball for much of the first half and coughed the ball up time and again, leading to some easy WVU baskets. Those easy buckets translated into some confidence for everyone involved, as easy shots led to better shots in the context of our offensive sets. Players started moving around and passing the ball, and all of a sudden things seemed to click as the Mountaineers raced out to a huge 51-19 lead at the half.
From my perspective, there is a lot to be encouraged about here. Yes, we still don't have a go-to player and yes, this was against inferior competition. Let's not kid ourselves, Marist was 14-18 in the MAAC last year and is off to a 1-3 start in 2012. But guys finally seemed to play within themselves and had a sense of camaraderie about them and the result was a very balanced scoring effort with 5 guys finishing in double figures. The best part about that? Our two freshmen, Terry Henderson and Eron Harris, led us in scoring. Not only did they score in a variety of ways, they played well in pretty much every aspect and brought a bit of a spark to the team, which is something we're going to need this year. Talk about your good signs for the future.
I'm still not sure what's going on with Gary Browne. He's clearly not the talent that Staten and Hinds are, but he looks less assertive than last year. Maybe that changes with time, or maybe that's just his new role. We'll see about that. It was also nice to see Matt Humphrey knock down a couple threes. If he can get it going from the outside, that has to open up our offense.
I really liked what I saw of Aaric Murray in the second half, too. He rebounded and defended well, and chipped in with 10 points on the offensive end. If this team has any chance of being really good at the end of the season, Murray is going to have to play a huge role in that because Deniz Kilicli has certainly shown no signs of being a team leader. Somehow, Deniz looks more lost now than he did his freshmen year. Outside of a few nice assists (and really, do you want him trying to make no-look passes to backdoor cutters on a regular basis?) he flat out whiffed on a handful of rebounds and was generally clumsy on both ends of the floor. The worst part about it is that he has zero basketball IQ. Whatever, maybe he can pitch in 8-10 points a game and be enough of a big body from time to time that he disrupts a few opponents' offensive possessions.
The team gets back to it tomorrow at 12:30 against the winner of Vanderbilt and Davidson, so we're in for a full afternoon of Mountaineer sports. Both games set up as potentially nice wins if the Mountaineers can play well. Lose both, and it's going to be a long night. If the performances against Marist and Oklahoma are any indication, though, I have a feeling it's going to be a great night to be a Mountaineer.