WVU basketball: Mountaineers open with offense, victory
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Eron Harris followed a spin move and then a spinning layup off the glass with a free throw to give West Virginia the boost it needed to start a late run away from Mount St. Mary's Friday.
The sophomore answered Monday night's 30-point performance in the exhibition win against Fairmont State with 19 points, and his three-point play with 5:44 to go started a 11-3 run as the Mountaineers won their season-opener, 77-62, before a crowd of 8,336 at the Coliseum.
WVU started hot, never trailed, led by 11 points at the half and by 14 early in the second half before going ahead by as many as 16 points late. Mount St. Mary's stayed close enough to keep the Mountaineers from coasting and was within nine points twice early in the second half. It had a chance to get there again with 7:21 remaining, but a missed free throw that kept the score 62-52.
Remi Dibo followed with his first basket for WVU before Harris' acrobatic score and free throw. Juwan Staten then followed a Mount St. Mary's turnover with a layup and the Mountaineers had a 15-point lead, at that point their largest of the game. It was 69-57 when WVU's Nathan Adrian, who was 3-for-3 at the 3-point line and had attempted no other shots, was left open in the left corner. The defense raced to him, but he faked and dribbled inside for layup.
Mount St. Mary's scored and then Staten missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Julian Norfleet parted WVU's defense and missed a simple layup with 2:30 remaining. Staten was fouled and made two shots at the foul line.
In addition to Harris, WVU saw Staten, Adrian and freshman Brandon Watkins score in double figures. Adrian finished with 11 points and Watkins had 10 and five rebounds while Staten had 22 points on 7-for-10 shooting and added five rebounds and six assists. He used some early jumpers to give him chances later for easy drives and layups.
"He's put the time," WVU Coach Bob Huggins said. "I think when you put the time in it helps your confidence. And when you make the first couple, I think that really helps, too. When he makes those, he's really good. It's hard to keep him from getting into the lane when he wants to get into the lane."
The Mountaineers shot 56 percent (28-for-50) and made 13 of 18 free throws after shooting just 37-for-54 there Monday, but they were also outrebounded 30-28.
"I'd like to have both," Huggins said. "I don't know why we can't have both. But that was a total team effort. They all contributed."
Norfleet had 19 points and seven assists for Mount St. Mary's, the team picked to finish sixth the Northeast Conference's preseason poll.
WVU's offense was present from the start. Four of the first five shots went in and the first six baskets came from different players. The first player with more than one basket was Watkins, who was the first player off the bench and had three straight scores for the Mountaineers. He made a layup, rebounded his own miss and scored and then hit a short jumper.
A three-point play from Harris got him rolling, and his third 3 of the half gave him 14 points on just six shots before a layup by Gary Browne pushed the shooting percentage to 75 percent at 15-for-20. The Mountaineers led 37-26 with 3:49 remaining, the largest advantage of the half.
WVU's shooting cooled at the end of the half - to 16-for-24 and 66.7 percent. The Mountaineers made 12 jump shots and four layups for a 41-32 lead. Seven players made a shot in the first half and six contributed to the 11 assists on 16 baskets.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.