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WVU basketball: Mountaineers roll as Staten finally hits a 3-pointer

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Juwan Staten enhanced his leadership and elevated his scoring during his second season at West Virginia, but he knew all along he couldn't convince the masses that he was a changed player, a different threat and a better shooter until he did what he hadn't done in 33 months.

He no longer has to worry about that.

The junior made a 3-pointer in the first half of West Virginia's win against Georgia Southern Thursday, his first since Feb. 16, 2011. It stood as the highlight of a 101-68 victory before 4,814 at the Coliseum, the smallest crowd since 4,323 saw the Mountaineers beat New Hampshire in December 2004.

"It's something I definitely had to improve," Staten said. "In practice, I definitely shoot them when I'm open. It's a different speed in the game and that's something I'm trying to get adjusted to the last few games. But right now, I like the speed of the game."

Mountaineers Coach Bob Huggins said he sat on the bench before the game and watched Staten make 13 in a row and 17 out of 18.

"He told me before the game, 'I just want to make one so these people get off my back,' " Huggins said.

Staten finished with 20 points, five rebounds and nine assists as WVU won the opening game of the Cancun Challenge. The Mountaineers (3-1) play host to Presbyterian at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Regardless of the outcome, they play Old Dominion Tuesday in Cancun. A day later, WVU plays either Wisconsin or Saint Louis.

Staten came into the game second on the team in scoring and his 20 points per game average was up from his 7.6 from last season, his first with the team after playing at Dayton as a freshman in the 2010-11 season. Late in that season with the Flyers, when he led the Atlantic 10 in assists, Staten made a 3 against Charlotte. He missed his final five attempts that season and then transferred to WVU, where he sat out the 2011-12 season.

He tried and missed nine attempts last season, and was one of three Mountaineers who hadn't attempted a 3 this season - and the others were 6-foot-9 freshmen Devin Williams and Brandon Watkins.

It was Watkins who passed to Staten and recorded the assist as the streak ended at 14 misses over 1,009 days with 12:31 to go in the half and a smile on Staten's face.

"It wasn't really a sigh of relief," he said. "I knew the question would get asked later, though. That question's been asked pretty much every game since I got here."

The game was not stopped, but there was a bit of a gift as Staten was allowed to take a four-minute break in the middle of the first half. He had sat once this season, that for one minute in the opener against Mount St. Mary's. He wound up playing only 30 minutes against Georgia Southern.

For kicks, Staten tried a second 3 with 2:45 left in the first half, but missed.

"Now that he's made one," guard Eron Harris said, "he's going to put the 3s up now."

It was just the second time since he's been at WVU and the sixth time in his career he's tried more than one 3 in a game. He remains 5-for-37 in his career and 1-for-11 at WVU.

"I thought I was going to go crazy if the second one went down," guard Terry Henderson said. "I almost went crazy when the first one went down."

Without Staten's 3, the Mountaineers wouldn't have cracked 100 points for the first time since getting 110 in a win against Maryland-Eastern Shore Nov. 27, 2007 - which is 2,186 days ago.

That was Huggins' fifth game as WVU's coach.

"That's definitely something we're proud of," said Staten, whose 31 assists and 54.5 percent shooting engineer an offense averaging 89 points per game. "We're definitely scoring the ball more. That's something we're doing great, but we have to continue to pick up the defense. But our scoring is good and something we want to continue to do against every opponent."

Staten reached his average with back-to-back layups in the second half to put WVU ahead by 40 points. Harris had 15 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes and Henderson had 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting in a season-high 19 minutes. Williams added 16 points and seven rebounds, Gary Browne made three 3s to finish with 11 points and Nathan Adrian was active early on the way to five points, five rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal.

WVU shot 56.3 percent and made 10 of 26 3-point shots.

The Eagles (2-2) shot 27 percent in the first half, but 55.6 percent in the second. Trey Bussey scored 21 points and Jelani Hewitt added 15.

"I don't think we played near the defense we need to play," Harris said. "Though we got to 100 points, I want to be real critical because right now, this is a preparing stage."

The Mountaineers didn't trail and were never challenged. They led 13-0 before the first media timeout and did a little of everything in an impressive first half. All nine players scored in the first 10 minutes when Remi Dibo's jumper pushed the lead to 36-11, and by then five players had made a 3-pointer.

WVU started 14-for-21 from the floor with assists on 10 of those baskets. The Mountaineers also had five steals and four blocked shots in the first half while committing only five turnovers and five fouls and grabbing 30 rebounds, including at least two from all nine players.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.

 


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