|Guard Eron Harris scored a game-high 30 points in West Virginia's 89-70 exhibition game victory over Fairmont State Monday night.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - After subpar shooting performances in West Virginia’s two closed-to-the-public scrimmages, the Mountaineers shot 44 percent from 3 in their 89-70 exhibition game victory over Fairmont State on Monday night.
And the Mountaineers will likely need a similar shooting performance against the Mountaineers on Friday night when WVU opens the season against Mount St. Mary’s.
Those other Mountaineers went 18-14 under first-year coach Jamion Christian, a Shaka Smart disciple who likes to run, press and shoot 3s. Mount St. Mary’s won nine straight down the stretch last season to reach the NEC tournament finals before falling to LIU Brooklyn.
Four of five starters return from that team, including all three perimeter players in Julian Norfleet, Rashad Whack and Sam Prescott.
“They’re experienced,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “They’re going to press – it’s going to be a Diamond press, man-to-man, run and jump and maybe a little 2-2-1, and then back to probably some kind of zone.”
The Mountaineers faced a lot of zone in their exhibition Monday night and ended up knocking down 12 3s for the game – six of those coming from 6-foot-9 freshman Nathan Adrian
, who finished with 21 points.
Sophomore guard Eron Harris
led all scorers with 30 points, with 15 of those coming from the free throw line. The Mountaineers were 37 of 54 from the charity stripe for the game, and got almost all of their points from their perimeter players.
Freshman forward Devin Williams
contributed 4 points to go with 14 rebounds, and Huggins said that his team must not fall in love with the 3 and forget about throwing the ball into the post.
“We’ve got to throw it to him more than we did,” Huggins said. “I think we threw it to him twice in the post. He scored once and I think he had an offensive foul on the other one. I think part of the problem was we were too perimeter-oriented. Part of that, too, is we’re trying to drive it and get to the foul line. You don’t want somebody standing in there when you’re trying to drive it and Devin is very capable of making 15 footers.”
Just how West Virginia chooses to put pressure on the rim will probably be a “game-to-game deal,” according to Huggins.
“We tried to do it last year with (center) Deniz (Kilicli) in there basically and I think we’re probably going to do it more now by driving to the rim rather than by hitting it in the post.”
West Virginia has five players returning, but doesn’t have a single senior on its roster this year. That likely means Huggins will have to move along slowly during the early portion of its schedule until everyone gets on the same page.
“It’s hard because you don’t have enough stuff in and you see mismatches - you see things where if you had the stuff in that you can make an adjustment and kind of attack what they’re doing and attack the weakness of what they’re doing - but to call these guys over there who don’t have any background in what we’re trying to do and put a new play in …” said Huggins. “I just don’t have that many timeouts, to be honest. We ran one thing on offense when (Fairmont State was) man-to-man and that’s it.
“We’ve got to be more diverse than that against man-to-man and then we just passed it around on the outside and made some shots against their zone,” Huggins said. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting into the teeth of their zone to make some things happen.”
Friday night’s lineup should be bolstered by the return of guard Terry Henderson
, who sat out Monday night’s game against Fairmont State with inflammation in his shin. Henderson was West Virginia’s top 3-point shooter last year, and was second to Harris on the team in scoring with an average of 8.0 points per game as a freshman.
West Virginia is returning 49.7 percent of their scoring from a year ago and a leader in nearly every statistical category. Still, Huggins is worried about his young team making the progress it needs to make while facing another challenging early-season schedule that begins with Friday night’s opener against Mount St. Mary’s.
“Everybody gets excited about the season opener, but I worry about us being able to win and get better at the same time,” Huggins admitted. “I’m kind of thinking that we play too many people early because you have to win. If you don’t win (early) then your chances of playing in the postseason aren’t near as good.
“Maybe you skip over some things and try and go too fast, and we’ve tried with this group to slow things down considerably and we’ll see how that works.”
Tip off is set for 8 p.m. following the WVU women’s team’s season opener against Ohio State at 5:30 p.m.
West Virginia Media (Rob King, Warren Baker and Rob Incmikoski) will televise the men’s game. Stations carrying the telecast include: WBOY (Clarksburg), WOWK (Charleston/Huntington), WTRF-DT2 (Northern Panhandle), WVNS (Beckley) and WJAL (Eastern Panhandle) in West Virginia.
The Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG (Tony Caridi and Jay Jacobs) will also provide statewide radio coverage.