Capital Classic: WVU’s new names still backed by same winner
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The names have changed at the top of the West Virginia men's basketball stat sheet.
Forward Kevin Jones recently signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Point guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant recently was waived by the NBA Development League's Texas Legends.
The names at the top of WVU's list are new. Brand new.
Dayton transfer guard Juwan Staten and LaSalle transfer center Aaric Murray are the Mountaineers' top two scorers. Staten has taken over the ball handling from Bryant. Murray mans the post.
As Marshall prepares for tonight's Capital Classic (7:30 p.m., WOWK), Thundering Herd Coach Tom Herrion said Staten and Murray may provide some new wrinkles, but the man at the very top, WVU Coach Bob Huggins, remains the same. And he'll employ the same disruptive, physical style he always has.
"Let's not forget, the guy's won over 700 games," Herrion said. "They're going to adjust to him. He's not going to adjust to any two guys.
"Now they'll tweak things. Some of the stuff they might have run for Kevin Jones, now it's for somebody different, a different player."
Staten and Murray both give the Mountaineers (2-3) a slightly different look. Staten, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, leads WVU with 10.8 points per game, and isn't the freewheeling shooter Bryant was. Bryant shot 35.8 percent from the floor last season, while Staten is shooting 45.5 percent. Staten has taken only three 3-pointers in five games, a vast difference from Bryant's nearly seven 3-point attempts per game.
"Staten's been a big lift for them at the point, stepping into Truck's minutes," Herrion said. "A different type of player, he's been kind of a stable force."
Herd sophomore guard Chris Martin said that while Staten differs from Bryant in some areas, the WVU guards are no less effective this season than last season.
"I feel like they're really not missing a beat in the backcourt," Martin said. "They're quick. They put pressure on you. I really don't feel like they're missing a whole lot."
Murray, a 6-10 junior, is a more conventional post player than Jones, who would take his game beyond the 3-point arc at times last season. Herrion said Murray is effective from as far as 15 feet, but he's only attempted two 3-pointers. Murray averages 10.3 points and a team-high 7 rebounds and pairs with 6-9, 260-pound bulldozer Deniz Kilicli down low.
"Murray is a very gifted scorer," Herrion said. "He gives them another post scorer. They haven't played two very good back-to-the basket post scorers at the same time, maybe, previously."
The Herd (5-3) doesn't have a ton of film on WVU's two new featured players. Yet they know the team's style. Marshall senior center Nigel Spikes said that should give his team the solid footing necessary to get ready for the Mountaineers.
"We've played against a lot of good players," Spikes said. "Stuff like that, we can adapt to quick. We'll find ways to guard him."
While the Marshall players feel they can adapt quickly to the new looks that Staten and Murray offer, Spikes said WVU's new players might be in for a rude awakening when it comes to the style of game the Capital Classic usually features. The Mountaineers and Herd have combined for an average of 48.4 fouls and 54.6 free throws in the last five meetings.
Both sides have newcomers playing integral roles. Beyond Staten and Murray, WVU also is projected to start 6-3 freshman Terry Henderson at guard. The Herd has two junior college transfers, guard D.D. Scarver and forward Elijah Pittman in its starting lineup.
Spikes said Marshall's veterans have tried to prepare their new teammates for tonight's game, and he figures WVU's vets have done the same.
"I know how it's going to play out," Spikes said. "I know the physical level. They probably don't know it as well. There's going to be a lot of fouling, but not a lot of fouls called.
"It's going to be a very physical game. If you're not used to it, it's going to be an eye opener."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.