WVU basketball: Fouls pile up as Mountaineers get exhibition win
MORGANTOWN - Maybe it was the 63 fouls and the 82 free throws that had Bob Huggins acting funny Monday night. Whatever the trigger, the West Virginia coach was a bit out of sorts following an 89-70 exhibition victory against Fairmont State.
"I feel bad for the officials," he said. "I never thought I'd say that. I can't believe it came out of my mouth. But there's so much pressure on them to call hand checks."
They followed through, adhering to the new rules for this season that prohibit a defender from using his hands or his arms to restrict the ball handler's ease of movement. The Falcons were called for 40 fouls, had five players foul out and let the Mountaineers shoot 54 free throws in the game.
Eron Harris made 15 of 20 foul shots, Gary Brown made 12 of 15 and Juwan Saten made 7 of 9 as WVU finished 37-for-54. The Mountaineers were called for 23 fouls and let the Falcons make 17 of their 28 free throw attempts.
The combination increased the scoring, which is an intended consequence, but also slowed the game, which was the inevitable side effect for the audience. The Coliseum crowd of 5,375 groaned often as the game dragged on for more than 2 hours, 20 minutes.
"I think it'll help beer sales tremendously," Huggins said. "There's going to be so much dead time to run to the fridge. It's going to be that way for a while. I think everyone recognizes it. I think the officials know it's going to happen. I think the supervisors and the guys in charge know it. It's just going to take some time to try and adjust to it."
Harris led all scorers with 30 points and freshman Nathan Adrian added 21. Browne score 18 points and Staten added 13. The Mountaineers also made 12 of their 27 3-point attempts, an encouraging sign for Huggins after he maintained through spotty showings in the Gold-Blue Debut and an exhibition against Ohio State last month that the Mountaineers would be better shooters this season than they were the last two seasons.
"You couldn't tell how relieved I was?" he said. "I see them every day and we do make them."
Adrian, a Morgantown High graduate, made 6 of 10 3-point shots, Harris was 3-for-7 and Browne was 2-for-5. WVU was just 8-for-22 from 2-point range and didn't have a basket inside the 3-point line until Staten dunked following a Fairmont State turnover eight minutes into the game.
"We've got some shot-makers," Harris said. "What you saw out there was we do have some guys who can shoot and we've got some guys who can shoot that didn't even play (Monday). I think shooting will be a strength this year, but we have to take them at the right times. We have little margin for error."
The Mountaineers played without Terry Henderson, and Remi Dibo only came off the bench with 2:18 left in the game. Henderson, who shot 46 percent from 3-point range in Big 12 games last season, has inflamed shin muscles. Dibo, a junior college transfer who made 41 percent of his 3-point shots at Casper (Wyo.) College last season, is still recovering from last month's knee surgery to repair torn meniscus.
Huggins said he believes both can play when the Mountaineers open the season at home at 8 p.m. Friday against Mount St. Mary's
WVU started Adrian and fellow freshman Devon Williams with Kevin Noreen in the frontcourt and Staten and Harris in the backcourt. Adrian wasn't in awe of the moment and made a 3-pointer at the top of a zone defense on WVU's first shot. He then blocked a shot and grabbed a defensive rebound before making a second 3 only 2:35 into the game.
His sixth 3 put WVU ahead by 19 at 85-66.
"Every time you play you get a chance to come in and prove to the coaches what you can do," Adrian said. "So, yeah, I took it as an opportunity to who them what I can actually do."
Williams made a soft hook shot in the paint as part of a 15-6 run to end the half and take a 45-33 lead into the locker room. He finished with 14 rebounds.
"They're going to have to produce for us," Harris said. "All we have is young guys there. I told Nate and Dev they're going to have to mature fast. Nate came out and hit shots and Dev rebounded the ball like a man. I'm very happy with those guys."
The Falcons had but a few openings in the second half. It was 56-46 with 12:46 remaining and Staten missed the front end of a one-and-one, but WVU rebounded the miss and walkon Chase Connor made a 3 at the top of the key. It was his only basket of the game after missing his first four 3-point attempts of the game.
Harris made a layup and a free throw to go ahead 68-52 with 10:00 remaining. Fairmont State turned the ball over and Harris found Adrian open for his fifth 3.
Fairmont State, coached by former WVU assistant and director of basketball operations Jerrod Calhoun, had it down to 77-62 when Tom Wimbush made a layup over Connor while he was fouled. Wimbush missed the free throw, but the Falcoms got the rebound and Wimbush had an open 3 from the right corner and missed. Staten's layup on the other end gave WVU a 77-64 lead before Wimbush missed and Browne made a 3 at the end of the shot clock and with 2:54 remaining.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.