It was all onions for the Mountaineers in the Big Apple Saturday night. If you watched the game, you know the story. WVU lost 81-66 in a game that was, at times, closer than the final score indicated. From the opening tip, this game was all Michigan as 3 after 3 fell early for the John Beilein coached squad. After taking the opening tip and scoring a quick 3, the Wolverines never looked back and never trailed WVU. That being said, the game was closer at times than expected.
After Michigan opened up the game with an 11-2 run, Huggins took a time-out to try and settle our troops. Unfortunately, that just fired Michigan up as they continued to pour in the 3's, layups, fast breaks from turnovers, mid-range/step-back jumpers, and pretty much anything else they shot. While WVU trailed 43-32 at halftime, we were able to claw our way back within 5 at one point late in the first half. With the exception of pulling within 8 toward the end of the game, that was the closest we would get the rest of way.
Going into this game, I expected a clinic from Michigan. They're athletic, intelligent, well-coached, and overall really, really good. Unfortunately for West Virginia, they lived up to their hype. To the Mountaineers' credit, they didn't lay down in front of the better competition. In fact, some of our youngsters looked downright impressive. Terry Henderson, the Freshman from Raleigh, NC, scored a team high 23 points and gave WVU fans a glimpse at his potential. Sure, he made some mistakes defensively and threw up some bad shots toward the end, but his up-side is huge. Eron Harris also stepped up and added 10 points off the bench and started the second half over Jabarie Hinds. Juwon Staten added 12 points of his own, but the 27 and 25 of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. respectively for Michigan overwhelmed our young talent.
WVU fans also got a glimpse of Volodymyr Gerun, the 6'10" monster from the Ukraine. While he only netted 2 points and 1 rebound, the kid can clear space on the floor. He blocked out very well, but couldn't come up with the ball afterwards. With a little time with Huggins, he could be a good addition to our struggling big men.
Which leads me to my next observation (and please don't take this as bashing, because I think Deniz is a true Mountaineer and really bleeds Old Gold and Blue). Deniz Kilicli finally found the location of Bob Huggins' dog house and resided there all but about 3 seconds of the second half. After flailing around on defense and knocking Michigan's Jon Horford out of the game while stumbling around for a loose ball, the Istan-bull was benched in favor of Rutledge, Noreen and Gerun for most of the game. Rutledge took advantage of the time and snagged 7 rebounds, the highest tally on the team. It seems the Turkish experiment may finally be over until Deniz can prove he isn't a liability on the court. Until he can prove he can grasp a basketball and actually make one of his hook shots, I see a lot of pine-riding in his future.
I'm really not sure what else to say about this game for the folks that didn't watch it. It was exactly what I expected from Michigan, but I think WVU is improving as a team. Our young guys are starting to step up and figure out what it takes to play at this level. The problem is, the schedule is long and hard, and these kids might not be ready for it physically. We got worn out at the end of the game, and the short shots from tired legs showed over and over. It would have taken a huge effort to take out the #3 team in the country, and tonight was just not our night to overtake the Wolverines. I hope this game builds some confidence in Henderson, Harris, and Staten because they are the future. If anyone can mold these kids into basketball players, it's Huggins.
In Bob I trust.