Beggars can't be choosers, right? A reeling 4-5 Mountaineer squad, saddled with doubt after back to back losses at Duquesne and against Michigan in Brooklyn desperately needed a win at home over a scrappy 4-7 Oakland team to help right the ship and regain much-needed confidence. It wasn't an easy road to that win.
Throughout the first half, the Golden Grizzlies found easy layups and canned wide open threes to hold tight to a 39-37 first half lead. Credit Oakland for working to get quality shots, hitting them, and getting tough rebounds when they occasionally missed. The Grizzlies are a talented and well-coached team that played fundamental basketball and capitalized on 9 first half WVU turnovers to the tune of 14 points.
Credit the Mountaineers for not folding in the face of adversity and a halftime wardrobe swap from Huggins for the turnaround. WVU's freshmen, Terry Henderson and Eron Harris were again fantastic, hitting huge threes and contributing with athletic plays on the offensive end to lead the Mountaineer charge. Juwan Staten, WVU's most consistent contributor kicked in 11 and distributed the ball well once again. He's clearly the man now for the Mounties, as the offense runs almost entirely through him. Aaric Murray responded to Huggs' postgame comments Saturday after Murray was left in Morgantown for reportedly missing the team bus to the airport. From what I hear, Murray was in the gym extra every day this week, and the hard work paid off as he led WVU with 12 points and several key rebounds and defensive plays. If Murray plays hard, he is potentially the Mountaineers' most dynamic player. Let's hope a fire has been lit that will "inspire" him to that level.
Keaton Miles was also big, chipping in with 10 points of his own led by a couple clutch three pointers. He has the potential to be a John Flowers like player for WVU, which would be a huge boon to us.
Bottom line, a win is a win at this point. Oakland is scrappy, having taken Pitt to overtime at the Petersen Events Center and beaten Valpo at home. So I'm not mad. But I am concerned about the lack of defense and rebounding, especially in the first half. Something is clearly wrong with Deniz Kilicli, and as much as I like the Turk, others are giving us more production at this point. There's talent, with Staten, Miles, Browne, Murray, Henderson and Harris. We just need to play hard, and play together. The next few games provide us that chance. Keep improving through the rest of the nonconference schedule and maintain that momentum into the conference slate and this season is far from a loss.