www.charlestondailymail.com WVU Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Health of Staten, Browne key for WVU the rest of the way http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150301/DM03/150309918 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150301/DM03/150309918 Sun, 1 Mar 2015 20:33:37 -0500 By Mike Casazza LAWRENCE, Kan. - There are two ways to digest what happened to West Virginia on Saturday in Waco, Texas, and the situation that it created entering the final week of the regular season.

The first is the optimist's outlook. The Mountaineers, who were ranked No. 20 in the AP poll before Monday's new rankings, played without Juwan Staten, the point guard and leading scorer. Before the first media timeout, they then lost Gary Browne, who is more than simply Staten's primary replacement.

That stung for a team that has won without Staten this season when Browne proved a worthy Plan B in a win at TCU to start Big 12 play in January.

"We weren't planning on it to happen like that," WVU forward Elijah Macon said. "Things like that can happen at any time in a game, so we've got to do better sticking with the plan. I feel if we came out with better intensity like we should have in the first half, if we came out aggressive, we would have been in a better place in the second half and it could have been a different game."

In spite of the setback, WVU, which had never practiced without Staten and Browne, let alone play 37 minutes on the road against a ranked team and a 2-3 zone without the two seniors, still had assists on 21 of 25 baskets. That's the best ratio of the season. There were 13 turnovers, and just four in the second half, and that's only barely above the season average.

By those meaningful measures, the Mountaineers were functional without the tandem that leads them in experience and execution.

The other outlook is the only WVU will consider, which is that the team lost by 12 and trailed by 19 points in the first half and 20 in the second. If not for a sluggish start, when the Mountaineers were slow to loose balls and seemed rudderless, and squandered chances late when they would turn it over or allow offensive rebounds after missed free throws, the outcome might have been different.

"We did all right, but it wasn't good enough to get us the win," said WVU freshman Jevon Carter, a shooting guard off the bench for virtually all of this season who started and had to play point guard Saturday. "I just don't think we did enough. I don't think we gave it 100 percent like we always do."

The takeaway that might matter most, though, is neither of the above. What the Mountaineers might come to accept is Saturday could be their future, and not just next season after Staten and Browne graduate.

Staten's left knee, which was injured in the second half of Tuesday's win at home against Texas, kept him out of practice last week. He traveled with the team, but the Mountaineers made the trip to central Texas knowing he wouldn't play. Browne's left ankle was twisted in a pile of players vying for a loose ball after just two minutes and 39 seconds Saturday. He left the court and returned to the bench on crutches with his the ankle wrapped in ice. X-rays Saturday were negative, though the sprain was severe enough to fear the ankle might have been broken.

Both players are listed as day-to-day. Neither is guaranteed to play in Tuesday's game (ESPN, 9 p.m.) against Kansas, which was ranked No. 8 last week, or in Saturday's regular-season finale at the Coliseum against Oklahoma State.

The loss to Baylor dropped the Mountaineers (22-7, 10-6 Big 12) into a three-way tie for third place with Iowa State and the Bears, and WVU is 0-2 against both this season. They each trail first-place Kansas (23-6, 12-4) and Oklahoma (20-8, 11-5).

WVU can still win a share of the conference title by winning out and having Oklahoma lose to Iowa State and beat Kansas. It can also finish no worse than fifth in the standings. The top six seeds are off the first day of next week's conference tournament. The top two seeds play winners from the first day's games. No. 3 plays No. 6 and No. 4 plays No. 5.

Health is suddenly a variable, though, and to win in the postseason the Mountaineers simply must have Staten and Browne to run their offense optimally and organize and trigger their defense aggressively. Baylor's eight turnovers were the fewest by a WVU opponent this season. The Mountaineers were leading the nation by forcing more than 20 per game.

They missed their guards more on offense.

"The the worst thing about losing Wanny is he knows," WVU coach Bob Huggins said. "He knows where guys are supposed to come open and when they're supposed to come open, so he delivers the ball better. And that's because he's been out there for three years. Gary's the next guy in line who understands that because he's been out there. All the other guys haven't been out there."

Huggins said in the second half he backed away from his normal motion offense, which is based mostly on how the players feel and what they know and anticipate teammates will do. With guards in new positions, it didn't run as smoothly, so the Mountaineers ran more sets against the zone, and Huggins hoped his players could follow a play's instructions.

What he saw was poor spacing, guards who didn't know better and should have been farther from the action to open up the defense and create more lanes for cuts and passes. The Bears instead were able to crowd the space near the basket, which made things difficult for the players there and the players trying to get the ball there.

"We've got guys doing jumping jacks out there in the lane, and they're open and we don't throw it to them," Huggins said. "That's not anything other than they don't know where to look, and it sounds simpler than it is, but you've got to know where to look and know the progression of where people are coming open or are supposed to come open. It makes a big difference."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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WVU loses at Baylor without Staten, Browne http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150228/DM03/150229233 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150228/DM03/150229233 Sat, 28 Feb 2015 20:21:55 -0500 By Mike Casazza WACO, Texas - At full strength in Morgantown three Saturdays ago, West Virginia lost to Baylor by 18 points. Revenge on the road against a team on a roll was going to be hard.

Without preseason Big 12 player of the year Juwan Staten, it would be harder.

And when Gary Browne - who is Staten's primary backup and also a starter who's fourth on the team in minutes and fifth in points - injured his left ankle after 2:39 and never returned to the game, well, what happened here Saturday makes sense.

The 19th-ranked Bears won their fourth straight game and beat the 20th-ranked Mountaineers 78-66 before a crowd of 9,385 at the Ferrell Center. Baylor, which has been to two Elite Eights and a Sweet Sixteen with 12th-year coach Scott Drew, has now won back-to-back games against ranked teams for the first time in program history.

"Gary went down and we started throwing the ball to them," coach Bob Huggins said. "We had nine turnovers in the first half, and most of them were live-ball turnovers that killed us. And you had guys out there who hadn't been out there by themselves before. It was hard to make adjustments.

"But that being said, we had guys who are veterans - I guess veteran guys for us are sophomores - who didn't really do what we needed to do. They were just kind of running around. We didn't do a very good job overall."

The Mountaineers trailed by 19 points in the first half and 20 points in the second half after a surge to get within nine points. Their chances of winning the Big 12 championship took a hit, as well, when first-place Kansas survived at home against Texas. The eighth-ranked Jayhawks are a game ahead of Oklahoma and two games ahead of WVU and Iowa State, who both lost Saturday, and now Baylor.

The Bears entered the game as one of only five teams in the country that hadn't allowed an opponent to reach 75 points during the season and one of three teams to lead by at least six points in every game - and they needed just 3:28 against WVU to extend that streak.

"A lot of great things," Drew said. "This was a team effort and a team win. That's a great West Virginia team, as all the teams in the Big 12 are, but now we've got to keep this rolling."

Staten, who was clipped in the middle of the second half of Tuesday's win against Texas and injured his left knee, missed his second game of the season, something the Mountaineers (22-7, 10-6 Big 12) knew before leaving campus Friday. He was sick for WVU's conference-opening win at TCU on Jan. 3, when Browne scored all 16 of his points in the final 11 minutes.

The plan was similar Saturday, but it didn't last long. The Mountaineers said they hadn't even practiced without Staten and Browne, never mind play 37 minutes on the road without both of the seniors.

Huggins said after the game Staten is day-to-day and that he doesn't know Browne's prognosis. The Mountaineers play at Kansas at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Even a share of the Big 12 title is out of reach with a loss at Allen Fieldhouse.

"It hurt us, but we can't hang our head on it," freshman Jevon Carter said. "We've got to come together and keep fighting and win these last two games in the conference."

Carter led all scorers with 25 points. He was 7 for 13 from 3-point range and 1 for 3 from 2-point range. He added five rebounds, three assists and two steals but also a career-high five turnovers in 38 minutes. Daxter Miles made the team's only other 3 in 11 attempts from five other players and had 11 points and five assists. Jon Holton had seven points and 10 rebounds and Elijah Macon added nine points and five rebounds.

Devin Williams couldn't rescue WVU from Staten's absence and the loss of Browne and finished with four points and six rebounds on 2 for 7 shooting, including a layup in the final minute with his team down 14 points. He was in foul trouble in the second half and played just eight minutes.

"I think we started the game off too slowly and dug ourselves a whole we couldn't get out of in the second half," Macon said. "We should have started the game the way we started the second half."

Rico Gathers had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears (22-7, 10-6) and made 9 of 12 free throws, where Baylor was 22 for 33 while WVU was just 8 for 12. Royce O'Neale had 18 points, seven assists, four rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals. Taurean Prince, who leads the team in scoring off the bench, had 20 points, three assists and three steals. Both made four 3s. Al Freeman added 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench, and Baylor's reserves outscored WVU's 32-19 even though the Mountaineers used seven and the Bears used four.

Baylor finished with just eight turnovers, five fewer than what had been the season-low against the Mountaineers, who missed Staten and Browne on defense.

"It affects our press, but honestly, it affects our press when they shoot 33 free throws," Huggins said. "It just kills your aggression. We can't foul. We've got to pressure without fouling or you get a continual parade to the foul line and you end up backing off rather than doing what we normally do. We made dumb fouls."

Browne began as the team's point guard and Carter made his first career start in Staten's spot. Carter became the point guard when Browne departed, and Tarik Phillip and Miles would also bring the ball up the floor against the Baylor defense.

Carter matched his previous career high with four turnovers in just the first half, and Phillip added two in just four minutes. Phillip's were especially costly and led to Baylor baskets, the first when be passed into a crowd in the middle of the zone, the second when a pass to the corner to Chase Connor instead hit Prince in the right hand, which started Prince's dribble and led to a layup.

Carter's fourth led to a windmill dunk by Gathers that put Baylor ahead 43-24, the largest lead of the half, and forced the Mountaineers to call their third timeout of the half.

The Bears made 17 of 26 shots in the first half, including 4 of 6 3-point attempts, and made 7 of 10 foul shots. They had assists on 12 of the baskets and only turned the ball over four times against WVU's vaunted press. The Mountaineers tried the 1-1-3 zone that puzzled Texas Tuesday, but O'Neale made his third 3 of the first half the first time the Bears saw it.

WVU, meanwhile, made 13 of 27 shots, but missed 7 of 10 3-point attempts and didn't take a free throw in the first half. Their nine turnovers led to 11 Baylor points.

Baylor's 45-29 halftime lead was the 26 time it had led at the half this season 22nd time in 29 games the opponent scored 30 or fewer points. It was the second-highest point total by a WVU opponent in any half this season, a point lower than the 46 points the Bears scored in the first half at the Coliseum on Feb. 7.

The Mountaineers revved up a rally on a few occasions in the second half. Twice they cut the lead to 12 points, but Baylor answered the first with a three-point play on an inbounds pass under the basket and the second with a jumper that bounced around before falling through as the shot clock expired.

It was an 11-point game when Prince made a 3 at the end of the shot clock and then 56-45 after Carter made a 3 and Billydee Williams stole the ball at mid-court and dunked. Baylor called timeout with 12:03 remaining, and WVU got the stop it needed and had chance to get the score inside double digits for the first time since 8:27 was left in the first half.

The Mountaineers turned it over, but Baylor missed a layup and fouled on the rebound and then fouled three more times on the defensive possession. WVU was in the bonus with 10:43 remaining and Miles made two free throws to make it 56-47.

It was 59-49 when Nate Adrian and Macon blocked Gathers as he tried to dunk. Miles was fouled in transition and missed the front end of the one-and-one. Macon fouled Gathers on another jump at the rim, and he made the first and missed the second, but the ball went out of bounds off the Mountaineers and Prince made another 3.

Carter quieted the rising crowd with his sixth 3 of the game, but Kenny Chery made two free throws. After a Miles miss, Prince missed a dunk in transition, but the offensive rebound was zipped across the floor to O'Neal for one more 3 and a 68-52 lead. Carter missed a 3 and Williams missed close twice and committed his fourth foul on the rebound. Gathers made two free throws and WVU would find itself down by 20 points for the first time two possessions later.

"At the beginning, we started out slow, and you could tell we weren't really used to what we were doing and we turned the ball over too much," Carter said. "I feel like throughout the game we picked it up, but we just didn't have enough to pull it out."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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WVU loses at Baylor without Staten, Browne http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150228/DM03/150229234 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150228/DM03/150229234 Sat, 28 Feb 2015 20:20:49 -0500 By Mike Casazza WACO, Texas - At full strength in Morgantown three Saturdays ago, West Virginia lost to Baylor by 18 points. Revenge on the road against a team on a roll was going to be hard.

Without preseason Big 12 player of the year Juwan Staten, it would be harder.

And when Gary Browne - who is Staten's primary backup and also a starter who's fourth on the team in minutes and fifth in points - injured his left ankle after 2:39 and never returned to the game, well, what happened here Saturday makes sense.

The 19th-ranked Bears won their fourth straight game and beat the 20th-ranked Mountaineers 78-66 before a crowd of 9,385 at the Ferrell Center. Baylor, which has been to two Elite Eights and a Sweet Sixteen with 12th-year coach Scott Drew, has now won back-to-back games against ranked teams for the first time in program history.

"Gary went down and we started throwing the ball to them," coach Bob Huggins said. "We had nine turnovers in the first half, and most of them were live-ball turnovers that killed us. And you had guys out there who hadn't been out there by themselves before. It was hard to make adjustments.

"But that being said, we had guys who are veterans - I guess veteran guys for us are sophomores - who didn't really do what we needed to do. They were just kind of running around. We didn't do a very good job overall."

The Mountaineers trailed by 19 points in the first half and 20 points in the second half after a surge to get within nine points. Their chances of winning the Big 12 championship took a hit, as well, when first-place Kansas survived at home against Texas. The eighth-ranked Jayhawks are a game ahead of Oklahoma and two games ahead of WVU and Iowa State, who both lost Saturday, and now Baylor.

The Bears entered the game as one of only five teams in the country that hadn't allowed an opponent to reach 75 points during the season and one of three teams to lead by at least six points in every game - and they needed just 3:28 against WVU to extend that streak.

"A lot of great things," Drew said. "This was a team effort and a team win. That's a great West Virginia team, as all the teams in the Big 12 are, but now we've got to keep this rolling."

Staten, who was clipped in the middle of the second half of Tuesday's win against Texas and injured his left knee, missed his second game of the season, something the Mountaineers (22-7, 10-6 Big 12) knew before leaving campus Friday. He was sick for WVU's conference-opening win at TCU on Jan. 3, when Browne scored all 16 of his points in the final 11 minutes.

The plan was similar Saturday, but it didn't last long. The Mountaineers said they hadn't even practiced without Staten and Browne, never mind play 37 minutes on the road without both of the seniors.

Huggins said after the game Staten is day-to-day and that he doesn't know Browne's prognosis. The Mountaineers play at Kansas at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Even a share of the Big 12 title is out of reach with a loss at Allen Fieldhouse.

"It hurt us, but we can't hang our head on it," freshman Jevon Carter said. "We've got to come together and keep fighting and win these last two games in the conference."

Carter led all scorers with 25 points. He was 7 for 13 from 3-point range and 1 for 3 from 2-point range. He added five rebounds, three assists and two steals but also a career-high five turnovers in 38 minutes. Daxter Miles made the team's only other 3 in 11 attempts from five other players and had 11 points and five assists. Jon Holton had seven points and 10 rebounds and Elijah Macon added nine points and five rebounds.

Devin Williams couldn't rescue WVU from Staten's absence and the loss of Browne and finished with four points and six rebounds on 2 for 7 shooting, including a layup in the final minute with his team down 14 points. He was in foul trouble in the second half and played just eight minutes.

"I think we started the game off too slowly and dug ourselves a whole we couldn't get out of in the second half," Macon said. "We should have started the game the way we started the second half."

Rico Gathers had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears (22-7, 10-6) and made 9 of 12 free throws, where Baylor was 22 for 33 while WVU was just 8 for 12. Royce O'Neale had 18 points, seven assists, four rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals. Taurean Prince, who leads the team in scoring off the bench, had 20 points, three assists and three steals. Both made four 3s. Al Freeman added 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench, and Baylor's reserves outscored WVU's 32-19 even though the Mountaineers used seven and the Bears used four.

Baylor finished with just eight turnovers, five fewer than what had been the season-low against the Mountaineers, who missed Staten and Browne on defense.

"It affects our press, but honestly, it affects our press when they shoot 33 free throws," Huggins said. "It just kills your aggression. We can't foul. We've got to pressure without fouling or you get a continual parade to the foul line and you end up backing off rather than doing what we normally do. We made dumb fouls."

Browne began as the team's point guard and Carter made his first career start in Staten's spot. Carter became the point guard when Browne departed, and Tarik Phillip and Miles would also bring the ball up the floor against the Baylor defense.

Carter matched his previous career high with four turnovers in just the first half, and Phillip added two in just four minutes. Phillip's were especially costly and led to Baylor baskets, the first when be passed into a crowd in the middle of the zone, the second when a pass to the corner to Chase Connor instead hit Prince in the right hand, which started Prince's dribble and led to a layup.

Carter's fourth led to a windmill dunk by Gathers that put Baylor ahead 43-24, the largest lead of the half, and forced the Mountaineers to call their third timeout of the half.

The Bears made 17 of 26 shots in the first half, including 4 of 6 3-point attempts, and made 7 of 10 foul shots. They had assists on 12 of the baskets and only turned the ball over four times against WVU's vaunted press. The Mountaineers tried the 1-1-3 zone that puzzled Texas Tuesday, but O'Neale made his third 3 of the first half the first time the Bears saw it.

WVU, meanwhile, made 13 of 27 shots, but missed 7 of 10 3-point attempts and didn't take a free throw in the first half. Their nine turnovers led to 11 Baylor points.

Baylor's 45-29 halftime lead was the 26 time it had led at the half this season 22nd time in 29 games the opponent scored 30 or fewer points. It was the second-highest point total by a WVU opponent in any half this season, a point lower than the 46 points the Bears scored in the first half at the Coliseum on Feb. 7.

The Mountaineers revved up a rally on a few occasions in the second half. Twice they cut the lead to 12 points, but Baylor answered the first with a three-point play on an inbounds pass under the basket and the second with a jumper that bounced around before falling through as the shot clock expired.

It was an 11-point game when Prince made a 3 at the end of the shot clock and then 56-45 after Carter made a 3 and Billydee Williams stole the ball at mid-court and dunked. Baylor called timeout with 12:03 remaining, and WVU got the stop it needed and had chance to get the score inside double digits for the first time since 8:27 was left in the first half.

The Mountaineers turned it over, but Baylor missed a layup and fouled on the rebound and then fouled three more times on the defensive possession. WVU was in the bonus with 10:43 remaining and Miles made two free throws to make it 56-47.

It was 59-49 when Nate Adrian and Macon blocked Gathers as he tried to dunk. Miles was fouled in transition and missed the front end of the one-and-one. Macon fouled Gathers on another jump at the rim, and he made the first and missed the second, but the ball went out of bounds off the Mountaineers and Prince made another 3.

Carter quieted the rising crowd with his sixth 3 of the game, but Kenny Chery made two free throws. After a Miles miss, Prince missed a dunk in transition, but the offensive rebound was zipped across the floor to O'Neal for one more 3 and a 68-52 lead. Carter missed a 3 and Williams missed close twice and committed his fourth foul on the rebound. Gathers made two free throws and WVU would find itself down by 20 points for the first time two possessions later.

"At the beginning, we started out slow, and you could tell we weren't really used to what we were doing and we turned the ball over too much," Carter said. "I feel like throughout the game we picked it up, but we just didn't have enough to pull it out."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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Patient Holton develops for the No. 20 Mountaineers (video) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150226/DM03/150229349 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150226/DM03/150229349 Thu, 26 Feb 2015 20:56:37 -0500 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN - The thing about Jonathan Holton, his teammates say, is that he never changes.

"He won't quit on you," West Virginia men's basketball player Daxter Miles said. "He will never quit. That's just how he is."

That's not to say Holton hasn't been encouraged to change his ways. The junior forward missed a 3-pointer in a Feb. 7 loss to Baylor. During the game, his coach, Bob Huggins, told Holton not to attempt another 3 until he'd figured out why he'd missed 38 of his 46 attempts to that point.

Holton would keep his shot holstered for the next three games. He was 0 for 1 in last Saturday's win at Oklahoma State - his only shot in the 11 minutes he played - and then 2 of 2 in Tuesday's win against Texas.

The last time he made a pair of 3s in a game this season was the only other time he did it. Holton was 2 for 3 in a Dec. 5 win against North Carolina State, and that was no less surprising because he was 0 for 9 in the four games before that.

"My confidence is there," he said. "I just need to stay in the gym and continue practicing it."

Holton feels as good as the rest of his teammates do now as they take their three-game winning streak into Saturday's 4 p.m. game (ESPNU) at No. 19 Baylor. The 20th-ranked Mountaineers (22-6, 10-5 Big 12) are tied for second place in the Big 12 standings and one game behind No. 8 Kansas. WVU plays the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse at 9 p.m. Tuesday, but the Mountaineers have already beaten Kansas this season, thanks in part to Holton.

He had five points, nine rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot at the Coliseum on Feb. 16 and WVU has been rolling since. He had 12 points against the Longhorns, just his second double-digit scoring game in Big 12 play, and has just one turnover the past three games.

"I think we probably expected more than what we should have expected from Jonathan Holton," Huggins said. "He really has never played at this level. He played in the Atlantic 10 for a year and junior college for a year and he sat out last year. He's just now starting, I think, to do some of the things we thought he could do and learning how to play the way we need him to."

Huggins had to take something from Holton to draw this out of him, and who's to say if he knew he'd get the reaction he's beginning to see now? Holton, though, has a history of being delayed and deterred.

He played his freshman season at Rhode Island and made the conference's all-rookie team before he was expelled. He was an all-American at Palm Beach State College in 2013, but had to sit out at WVU last season because he wasn't eligible to play.

Holton wasn't about to be stopped again, so when he was ordered to stay inside the 3-point line, he worked on ways to flourish there.

"I'm hungry, man," he said. "I wanted to play last year. I was ready to play last year. Last year was hard, to tell the truth. I've been ready since I got to Morgantown and I haven't been able to play to my potential. But I play hard. I hustle. That's all I can say.

"All Coach Huggins really wants me to do is rebound and hustle and play hard and bring energy, and the rest of my game will come. I'm a capable shooter. I can finish. The key is playing hard."

Holton played 40 minutes and scored 15 points in an overtime win against TCU on Jan. 24. He would go scoreless three times, play fewer than 10 minutes twice and foul out once before reappearing against Texas. He worked for shots underneath the basket and his three baskets inside the 3-point line were a dunk, a hook shot and a put back, that being a critical score after one of his four offensive rebounds.

He moved against the zone defense, he defended the tallest Longhorns in the post and earned 28 minutes on the floor, his second-best total in conference play. The 3s were merely bonuses.

"That's not what Jon is," Huggins said. "Jon is what he was (Tuesday). He's a guy who scores around the goal, a guy who could be an absolutely terrific offensive rebounder and, I think if he continues to work at it, a guy who should be able to bounce it at the rim.

"But if he continues to work at it and becomes a more consistent shooter from 3, that helps us spread them. It's hard when they stand everyone in the lane and say, 'Go ahead, we don't care if you shoot it or not.'"

Holton's low moments were never too low this season. At the practice that followed the win at Kansas State, the game when Holton got a technical foul after 17 seconds, he walked onto the court and past teammates.

"Foul," they said, goofing on Holton and his habit of finding foul trouble.

A few practices later, he again jogged onto the court and caused a stir when his teammates saw him wearing a white headband. Huggins was the first to ask if that was supposed to change his luck, and Holton smiled as others joined the fun.

"Even when he's down or even when he's upset, you can feel his energy level and feel his positive way," Miles said. "You know he's not done and he's going to give it all he has."

Holton, though, was serious about making things right, and he said avoiding 3s made him work harder in other areas so he could justify his presence on the court, never mind help the team.

"I always thought it opened up my game, but now I see attacking and rebounding really opens up my game," he said. "I can score easier off rebounds. I can't really control my shot going off or long."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.chardailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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Mike Casazza: WVU better after Bradley's brief stay http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150225/DM03/150229473 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150225/DM03/150229473 Wed, 25 Feb 2015 21:10:50 -0500 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There will be cries, from here and afar, about what Tom Bradley has just done, and understand many will be about leaving West Virginia rather than taking a job at UCLA. This is what observers do to Dana Holgorsen's program, and not without cause, since Bradley is the 12th assistant coach to leave Holgorsen's program in four offseasons.

True, you can break that dozen down and explain 10 of them in a way that makes sense before the backdrop of college football. Two were misses, either ideas or risks that weren't calculated or rewarded properly. But as the arrows take aim at Holgorsen, his 28-23 record, the .407 winning percentage in Big 12 play, that number 12 without context is convenient, and Bradley is a famously skilled assistant Holgorsen lost.

If we must work in black and white and acknowledge only winners and losers, it's really hard to see how anyone lost in this deal.

Bradley, a coaching lifer who was out of the game for two years following the scandal and the culture change at Penn State, is a defensive coordinator again. He has a big job in a major conference where, 12 months ago, that might have seem far-fetched. He spent a season at WVU, which earned praise for being the place Bradley chose for his return. Bradley left that place better than he found it and improved his situation as well.

Holgorsen and the other assistants aren't going to fault him for that. No one who encountered Bradley in his one season on campus should, either. But if you're going to insist this is a loss, it's important to understand exactly who and what the Mountaineers no longer have.

Bradley had been an even front, 4-3 coach for a long time. Before Bradley was hired last year, Tony Gibson was promoted to defensive coordinator to coach the odd stack 3-3-5. Bradley was a defensive line coach at WVU, as opposed to the defensive line coach. He and Damon Cogdell, in his first season at the college level, shared the line. Bradley coached the nose guards. That's it.

Bradley started the season coaching from the sideline. The media encountered him on the way to his seat in the coaching box above the field for the final few games of the season.

The defensive line was, at the minimum, concerning enough that when Holgorsen lost his offensive coordinator to Kentucky, he decided to replace Shannon Dawson with a defensive line coach just to make the presence and the pass rush up front what it needed to be. Bruce Tall, who was nearly hired before Bradley last winter, returned to WVU from Charlotte and was given control of the defensive line. That gave Gibson three defensive line coaches, though not for long.

When WVU dispersed a brochure last week about a coaching clinic in April, Bradley was advertised as the special teams coordinator, a role he once handled with the Nittany Lions. Still, with Joe DeForest on the staff, it's fair to wonder how much work Bradley would have done with the special teams. And when the Mountaineers unveiled their signing class earlier this month, not one signature was secured by Bradley, not one player came from western Pennsylvania, though, to be fair, WVU didn't target many from that area.

None of that is meant to demean the undeniably accomplished and effective Bradley, a man who made no enemies among the media this season, who talked for as long as he could with reporters, who seemed happiest when schooling younger writers who can now discern between the A, B and C gaps and all the defensive linemen techniques from 0 through 9.

Consider it instead a way to explain and praise this transaction. The Bruins roster is blessed with talent, and its coaching staff just got a bump, too. The Mountaineers took a hit, to be sure, and don't think for a moment Cogdell didn't benefit, that nose guard Kyle Rose isn't better now than he was before, that linebacker Edward Muldrow won't cherish the time in Bradley's office and the chats about life and football. People on the staff or on the roster will one day look back and be happy they spent time with Bradley, however brief.

Yet the situation with the staff is healthier than many will presume, and not because of the newly available $400,000.

Holgorsen's going to run his offense his way as the de facto offensive coordinator. Newly hired graduate assistant Michael Burchett, who was one of Holgorsen's backup quarterbacks in 2011, will work with quarterbacks. The coaches in charge of the running backs, receivers and offensive line all return. Next season will be the third together for JaJuan Seider, Lonnie Galloway and Ron Crook, continuity Holgorsen hasn't had before.

Cogdell will work with Tall, who knows the 3-3-5. Gibson will stick with linebackers, Brian Mitchell is back with cornerbacks and DeForest still has safeties. Someone will come aboard soon, ideally before spring practice starts March 15, and he'll probably work in some capacity with special teams. That's the opening WVU has right now, and Holgorsen's worked too long to situate his staff this way to change it now.  

And most importantly, Bradley will continue on, doing what he does best, running a defense at a place that wanted to hire him before and is lucky to have him now.

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WVU men's basketball team rounding into form (video) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150225/DM03/150229474 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150225/DM03/150229474 Wed, 25 Feb 2015 21:09:09 -0500 By Mike Casazza

(On our app? See Huggins video here)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Whether because of who West Virginia scheduled in non-conference play, who the Mountaineers had and had not beaten in the Big 12 or even where wins and losses occurred, suspicion long surrounded a team that's been ranked for 14 straight weeks.

As recently as 12 days ago, there could be reasonable conversations about if WVU's men's basketball team was on the bubble or on the cusp and if the final stretch of games would be too much for a team with seven first-year players.

And now?

"I don't know who else they want us to play, who else we have to beat," forward Jon Holton said following Tuesday's 71-64 win against Texas.

See also: No. 20 WVU 71, Texas 64

The Mountaineers are ranked No. 20 and, in nine days, beat a Longhorns team they lost to by 27 points last month, a ranked Oklahoma State team on the road that had beaten three ranked teams in succession and eighth-ranked Kansas, which remains No. 1 in the RPI and has won or shared the past 10 regular-season conference titles.

The Texas win put WVU in a tie with Iowa State for third place in the Big 12 standings and just one game behind the Jayhawks, who play host to WVU at 9 p.m. Tuesday, that after the Mountaineers play at No. 19 Baylor at 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Mountaineers (22-6, 10-5 Big 12) are not only back on their feet, but at No. 21 in the RPI, it's possible they're getting better at the end of the season.

Holton and Daxter Miles, a junior-college transfer who sat out last season and a freshman who was at a prep school last year, two starters who have struggled with their jump shot lately, were a combined 4 for 6 from 3-point range against Texas.

Holton had 12 points, six rebounds, two assists and no turnovers in 28 minutes. Miles had 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and five steals.

Jevon Carter, a freshman who comes off the bench and has been a steady source of offense and defense, had 10 points and two assists and made 2 of 3 3-point attempts. Nathan Adrian scored five points, made a 3-pointer and didn't have a turnover in 13 minutes.

Whether Tuesday against Texas when Elijah Macon had a strong finish for a three-point play, or Saturday against the Cowboys when junior college transfer Billydee Williams made two 3-pointers, or last Monday when Carter had 13 points, or Feb. 10 when junior-college transfer Jaysean Paige had 10 points against Kansas State, pieces have fallen into place to complete WVU's puzzling attack.

Among all those names, only Adrian played for WVU last season, and Adrian is in a new role as a low post player this season.

"We're getting better, we're getting closer, but it's a big jump, a bigger jump certainly than what they realized and probably everybody else realized," coach Bob Huggins said. "I think they're getting better, and those guys are starting to understand things better. The practices are better because they understand what they're doing. We don't have to spend so much time trying to over-explain things to them."

The first game against Texas this season, a 77-50 loss on Jan. 17, was the worst the Mountaineers have played. They set season lows in points, baskets, shooting percentage, assists and points off turnovers, but there was one problem at the root of all their struggles.

It was something Huggins could point to and discuss with his players and something they could accept was out of character.

"We watched the film and looked at our effort out in Texas, and the effort from when we were in Texas to here is totally night and day," said forward Devin Williams, who had 14 points Tuesday after totaling 13 in the first four games of his career against the Longhorns. "You could tell the difference, you could feel the energy from the bench and see the focus from everybody."

The Mountaineers had 14 baskets in the first half Tuesday. They had 13 in the first game against Texas. Eleven of those 14 baskets came with an assist, and nine players had at least one. There were only five assists last month. Fourteen of the first 17 points came in the paint, and the attack inside forced Texas to adjust. WVU responded by scoring 12 of the next 16 points from 3-point range.

Proof of their progress came when Texas ditched its 2-3 zone in the first half, and then when the Mountaineers had to change tactics and abandon its full-court press in the second half to play a 1-1-3 zone they hadn't shown all season.

Huggins said they'd been working on it for about three weeks, and he felt comfortable debuting it to slow down Texas. It triggered a 13-2 run and a 53-40 lead.

"I think it's something we can throw out there to change the tempo, and that's what we did with it. We changed their tempo and got a few stops and did a better job rebounding than what we have when we've tried to play zone in the past," he said.

"I don't know how much we're going to do it. We're going to do it when we need to do it, but I don't know how much we need to do it. I kind of like what we've been doing. It's been pretty good to us."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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Time announced for Blue-Gold Football Game http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150225/DM03/150229486 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150225/DM03/150229486 Wed, 25 Feb 2015 19:54:49 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University will hold the Gold-Blue Spring Football Game at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 25 at Mountaineer Field.

Tickets are available in advance for $10 each and can be purchased online at WVUGAME.com or by calling 1-800-WVU GAME. WVU students will be admitted free with a valid ID. Radio affiliates and stadium parking information will be released at a later date.

The Gold-Blue Spring Football Game will be televised across the state as part of West Virginia University's partnership with IMG College. Broadcasting the game will be WBOY (Clarksburg/Morgantown), WOWK (Charleston/Huntington), WTRF (Wheeling), WVNS (Beckley/Bluefield) and WJAL (Eastern Panhandle).

The broadcast will kickoff with a special pregame show at noon EDT, followed by the game broadcast at 1 p.m.

The proceeds from the game will benefit WVU Children's Hospital. The Mountaineers have donated more than $720,000 to the Children's Hospital during the past 30 years.

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West Virginia men beat Texas http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150224/DM03/150229582 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150224/DM03/150229582 Tue, 24 Feb 2015 23:13:29 -0500 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Just when it seemed everything had changed Tuesday night and nothing would change at all, when Texas had erased all but two points of an 18-point deficit and looked poised to pilfer a fifth straight win against West Virginia, the Mountaineers managed the biggest surprises of all.

The team that's harassed opponents all season with a full-court press and leads the nation in steals and forced turnovers went to a 1-1-3 zone and forced three turnovers and two missed shots to restore a double-digit lead.

Jonathan Holton, who hadn't made a 3-pointer since the first time the two teams played 10 games ago, capped a 13-2 run with his second 3 of the game for a 53-40 lead. No. 20 WVU would triumph in tense moments late for a 71-64 win before a crowd of 12,048 at the Coliseum.

"We had to change the game," coach Bob Huggins said. "They got in a rhythm, and when someone gets in a rhythm, you've got to change the rhythm. We've been working on it for about three weeks, but we haven't played it all. We went to it to change the rhythm and make them pass it and slow them down, because they were just coming right at us."

See also: Chuck McGill: WVU attacks Longhorns, shakes off series slump

Three wins in nine days has WVU tied for third place in the conference standings with No. 16 Oklahoma and just one game behind No. 8 Kansas. The Mountaineers (22-6, 10-5 Big 12) play the 10-time defending regular-season champions at 9 p.m. Tuesday, but have to deal with Saturday's 4 p.m. game at No. 19 Baylor first. The Bears won the previous game this month by 18 points.

The Mountaineers had lost the past four games to Texas (17-11, 6-9) by 11, 17, 17 and 27 points and trailed by at least 21 points in each. They trailed just once this time, and that 2-0 lead lasted 31 seconds.

"We were down just two weeks ago, and there were a lot of 'buts' and questions marks in the air," forward Devin Williams said. "I don't know who's been on the road with us as far as traveling and interviewing us, but I said we were going to be all right.

"There's a whole different feel this year, a whole different team. All I can say from this game is, let's just say this is a new West Virginia team, and we've proven that we are a different team from last year."

Williams had 13 points and 12 rebounds in the first four games of his career against Texas but had 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists in the fifth. He made 8 of 10 foul shots and had no turnovers in 32 minutes. Daxter Miles had made a pair of 3-pointers and finished with 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and five steals. Jevon Carter had 12 points and Jon Holton added 12 points, six rebounds and two assists.

Holton was 2 for 2 from 3-point range after going 8 for 47 in the first 27 games. His first 3 of the game gave WVU its largest lead at 33-15 with 3:49 to go in the first half.

"Perfect practice makes perfect," he said, "not just practice."

The Longhorns have lost three in a row and are 4-7 since beating the Mountaineers at home Jan. 17. They shot 52.5 percent and made 6 of 13 3-point attempts Tuesday but had 17 turnovers - 12 in the first half - for 22 WVU points.

Demarcus Holland led Texas with 14 points and Isaiah Taylor added 13. Kendal Yancy, who made six 3s and scored 29 points in Saturday's loss to Iowa State, finished with nine points. Jonathan Holmes was 2 for 3 from 3-point range and had six points before he was ejected on a flagrant foul late in the first half.

Holmes went to WVU's locker room after the game and apologized to the Mountaineers for the elbow he hit Williams with that sent him out of the game.

"West Virginia caused a lot of turnovers early," Longhorns coach Rick Barnes said. "We didn't bring the ball down the floor the way we wanted to early. There was too much dribbling. When you get double-teamed, you need to pass it because it means someone is open, and we needed to do a better job of that."

WVU hit 10 of its first 16 shots and was 2 for 2 from 3-point range, but then missed 12 of the next 16 shots and 9 of 11 3-point attempts when Huggins called a timeout 16:41 left in the game and WVU ahead 38-34. The lead was 40-36 and Texas went 2 for 4 at the free-throw line before Carter's 3 gave WVU momentum and a chance to set up its zone.

It promptly forced a shot-clock violation, and Juwan Staten scored on a goaltending call. Another turnover followed, but WVU gave it right back and Myles Turner made a baseline jumper. Williams was fouled and made two free throws and the teams traded turnovers again before Turner missed from the opposite sideline and Holton hit his second 3.

"The zone surprised me," Miles said. "You could see in the game it rattled them a little bit and they didn't know what to do. They probably didn't work on zone offense that much in practice. I'm pretty sure they were doing a lot of press offense."

Holton's third foul in a span of 2:14 came on a Taylor basket and the three-point play made it 63-59 with 1:04 to go. Williams was fouled seven seconds later and made two free throws. Texas would score on an offensive rebound and Williams would be fouled again and make his free throws again before Holland hit a 3 with 26 seconds to go to make it 67-64.

Staten, who was injured in the second half and had seven points and four assists, broke the pressure at mid-court and was 2 on 1 against Taylor. Staten passed to Carter and he made a tricky reverse layup. Yancy missed a 3 and Gary Browne made two free throws after he was fouled to clinch game for the Mountaineers.

"The monkey's off the back," Williams said. "I feel good for the players, the coaches and the state of West Virginia. We'll enjoy this and soak it in, and then it's on to Baylor."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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Chuck McGill: WVU attacks Longhorns, shakes off series slump http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150224/DM03/150229583 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150224/DM03/150229583 Tue, 24 Feb 2015 23:11:10 -0500 By Chuck McGill MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The Mountaineers wanted the horns. They came right out and messed with the bulls beneath the basket.

That's attacking a problem head on after the West Virginia University men's basketball team dropped four consecutive games to Texas in this series ­- by margins of 11, 17, 17 and 27 - before tangling with the unranked Longhorns here Tuesday night at the Coliseum.

WVU was tired of being bullied. It pushed back.

The result was a 71-64 win for the No. 20 Mountaineers, winners of three consecutive games after stumbling in the middle of the Big 12 schedule.

"The monkey is off our back," West Virginia forward Devin Williams said.

WVU is now 22-6 overall, 10-5 in league play and tied for third in the standings with No. 16 Oklahoma.

The Mountaineers imposed their will early, scoring their first 12 points in the paint on dunks and layups.

"That was our goal," WVU's Jonathan Holton said. "Last time they kind of took it to us, so this time the goal was to take it to them."

It wasn't until the 11:59 mark of the first half when Juwan Staten pulled up inside the key and drained a jump shot to break that string, and that put West Virginia up 14-6.

The lead ballooned to as many as 18 points in the first half, as the Mountaineers did to the Longhorns what they had come accustomed to doing in this series. WVU harassed Texas into 12 first-half turnovers and produced a confounding halftime stat line.

The Longhorns shot 73.3 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes ... but trailed by 11 points at intermission. That's because a team can't miss what it doesn't shoot, and the Mountaineers didn't let their visitors take many shots. Texas was 11-for-15 shooting in the first half, while WVU took nearly twice as many shots (14 of 29, 48.3 percent).

"We didn't settle," WVU coach Bob Huggins said. "We were patient."

While Texas had a 1-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio in the first half, the Mountaineers moved the ball freely against the Longhorns' zone to the tune of 11 assists on 14 field goals with only three turnovers.

The decision to attack the beast was a confident one. The Mountaineers tossed the ball around the perimeter and searched for holes in the Longhorns' zone. They passed crisply out of the high post, as Holton did when he found Elijah Macon for a basket and a foul to put WVU up 17-6 early. On the Mountaineers' next offensive possession, Holton searched for an opening from the left corner and zipped a cross-court pass to the right wing, where freshman Daxter Miles calmly sank a 3-pointer for a 20-6 lead.

It was never going to be that easy, of course. Texas whittled away at the deficit and came as close as two points, 40-38, as the Mountaineers worked away from the hoop and settled for perimeter shots. It took a 13-2 run ­- aided by 3-pointers from Jevon Carter, Miles and Holton - to push the lead to 53-40 and calm the fears of the 12,408 at the Coliseum.

It seems peculiar in a game focused on what happened in the paint that WVU's long-range shooting provided a difference, but numbers do not lie.

The Mountaineers shot 7 of 19 (36.8 percent) on Tuesday night, and that makes this year's team 12-0 when it shoots at least 35 percent from 3-point range.

But this game, predictably, was decided where the big fellas roam. It was West Virginia, however, that finished with a 28-24 edge in points in the paint and an 11-9 advantage in second-chance points. It didn't matter that the Mountaineers grabbed only 24 rebounds because Texas posted a season-low 28.

Huggins lauded the play of Williams, who finished with team-highs in points (14) and rebounds (seven). He made 8 of 10 free throws and contributed two assists as he worked the offense against the Longhorns' zone.

"He was a man," Huggins said of the 6-foot-9, 255-pound Williams. "That was a big front line ... he made a lot of good passes out of the high post."

The win puts WVU in a favorable position with three regular-season games remaining. Texas coach Rick Barnes said as much in Tuesday's postgame media session.

"They're a game out of first," said Barnes, whose team is 4-7 since it buried the Mountaineers by 27 points last month.

WVU trails 11-4 Kansas and 10-4 Iowa State in the standings. The Mountaineers play the former next Tuesday at the end of a two-game road swing that starts with Baylor this Saturday. A visit from Oklahoma State concludes the schedule March 7.

It's not an easy trio of games to navigate, but WVU is in this position because of what happened here against the Longhorns.

Forget the monkey, the Mountaineers finally shook off Bevo.

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Garrison 'knew before the bowl game' he would leave WVU http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150224/DM03/150229585 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150224/DM03/150229585 Tue, 24 Feb 2015 23:06:53 -0500 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN - Dustin Garrison will graduate in May, a college career's worth of studies done in four years, so trust that the West Virginia running back understands the concepts of addition and subtraction.

He knows, for example, the Mountaineers have a sum of returning players on scholarship and incoming players promised scholarships which exceeds the NCAA's maximum of 85. He grasps that some players are going to have to disappear in order for the Mountaineers to stay in bounds.

And Garrison will be one of them after announcing Tuesday he'll transfer to another school after this semester and seek playing time elsewhere for his final season. He just doesn't want people to think his scholarship was taken from him.

He is a criminology major, after all.

"I knew before the bowl game I was going to do it," said Garrison, who carried the ball just 20 times last season and not at all in the final three games. "(Tuesday) was the day I finally decided I wanted everyone to know about it.

"It's something I've been thinking about since basically my sophomore year, but I always told myself to fight through it. Things never really went how I thought they would, and through time I started to think it was time for me to make my own decisions and do what's best for me."

Garrison memorably snatched the starting job as a true freshman in 2011 and set the school's single-game freshman rushing record with 291 yards on a rainy October day against Bowling Green. He finished the season with 742 yards, but also tore the ACL in his left knee during a practice before the Orange Bowl.

It was then and there that things started to change for Garrison. He played the following season, although he missed the first two games. Garrison finished with 46 carries, and never more than nine in a game, for 207 yards and two touchdowns, one coming without a knee brace in the regular-season finale against Kansas.

Garrison believed he should have sat out that season, something his coaches agreed with after the fact, but everyone also realized Garrison was one of just three running backs on the team. Shawne Alston missed four games during that season and Andrew Buie slowed sharply after running 31 times for 207 yards against Texas.

Garrison then pulled a hamstring early in the 2013 season and ended up taking a medical redshirt, and he knew he was nearing the finish, one way or another.

"Before last year, I finally said, 'This is my last shot at the whole thing,'" Garrison said. "Anything I would do in workouts, running, practice, everything I did, I was going to do it full-speed and give it all my effort. And I did that.

"I showed it throughout spring practice, and the things I was doing were getting noticed by the media and by the coaches. Those guys were the ones telling me about how tough I was, how proud of me they were and how they felt I did everything in my ability to be the best running back I could be."

Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood would hold the top two spots at the positions, and Garrison never jumped them despite injuries or fumble problems for one or both.

Garrison had his moments, though, and he rescued the Mountaineers on the road against Maryland. With the score tied 37-37 and WVU starting a final drive deep in its territory, Dreamius Smith's helmet came off after a second-down play.

On third-and-8, Garrison jumped into the play before anyone knew what had happened and then turned a short pass into a 13-yard gain and a first down. Three plays later, he ran 10 yards for another first down. The Mountaineers were in Terrapins territory and on their way to a game-winning field goal. Clint Trickett passed for 511 yards and four touchdowns that day. Kevin White caught 13 passes for 216 yards and a score. Garrison, with his 12 yards rushing and 13 yards receiving, was named the team's offensive player of the week.

He had two touches the next game and five in the one after that and didn't get any in the two games that followed. Garrison understood the situation and began thinking about his future. He accepts he is a product of the competitive college experience.

"I enjoyed it here," he said. "There's nothing I hate about my experiences here. I learned so much being here and I'm so thankful for it. If none of this ever happened, if I never would have experienced any of this kind of stuff, if I got into the real world and tried so hard and didn't get my way, I wouldn't know how to deal with it.

"I had a chance to learn how people operate. I know this is like a business and I know how to handle myself. I don't regret any of it. Without it, I wouldn't be as strong a person as I am now. I was starting at 18 years old, set the school record, enjoying all that stuff and then had it taken away from me. It taught me so much about life. I'm not upset at all."

Garrison is originally from New Orleans, but fled with his family on the eve of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They relocated to Houston, where Garrison became a high school star and won player of the year awards for an undefeated state champion as a senior. He didn't have any Division I offers until WVU entered the picture in December 2010.

He hopes to transfer closer to home now and believes there's a difference between when he was looking for a place to prove himself in the past and looking for a place to play now.

"The one thing I want to put out there is about this idea I was never recovered after my injuries, I wasn't as fast as I once was. Everyone always questions that, but that's not true," he said. "The last couple of games of my sophomore year was when my body felt like it was right. I hate it when I see stuff saying my body was never recovered.

"That was never the case, and that's one reason I'm ready to perform again. I want to play football again. That's what this is about. It's not about me hating my coaches. It's not about me disliking anybody on the staff. It's about me wanting to have fun again and not taking a back seat to anybody."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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WVU's Mountaineer Athletic Club fundraises at record pace http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150223/DM03/150229684 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150223/DM03/150229684 Mon, 23 Feb 2015 21:37:44 -0500 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN - After seven months of the fiscal year, West Virginia University's athletic department fundraising is reaching numbers it has never reached before.

The Mountaineer Athletic Club began the 2014-15 financial cycle by setting record highs in four of the first seven months. It has already created new seven-month highs and is tracking toward all-time highs for an entire year, according to executive director Matt Borman.

"The date we trust goes back to 2005, but before that, I can't see us having better months during this time frame than what we've already had because our fundraising back then wasn't near what it is now," the senior associate athletic director said.

Borman said the overall money given to the MAC from July 1, 2014 to Jan. 30, 2015 was roughly $8.29 million. A year ago at this time, the number was about $7.15 million. The record high at this point in a fiscal year was $7.45 million in 2012-13.

That was also the year the MAC raised a record $23 million. Last year, the MAC reported about $20 million.

While that's significant for the overall campaign, what the MAC is doing within for the annual giving fund is more meaningful. The annual giving fund doesn't generate sums or donations as large as the major gifts category, but the totals for major gifts can soar and sink from year to year based on the number of major donors and the size of their donations.

"The annual fund is something that we need to be consistently strong year in and year out because out of that fund we pay the scholarship bill and run the department on a day-to-day basis," Borman said.

The annual giving fund generated around $2.32 million in the fiscal year's first seven months, zooming past where it was at this point last year ($1.19 million) and the all-time seven-month mark ($1.88 million in 2011-12).

The full-year record from 2012-13 is about $15 million, and the MAC reported around $14 million last year.

Donations always increase later in the year, and the gifts attached to season tickets and parking passes for football and basketball make up most of the annual giving fund. Those amounts range from $100 to $25,000 annually, where the greater the sum, the greater the benefits for the person making the donation.

The Mountaineers have always relied on season ticket sales to pay the largest and most important bills within the athletic department. In recent years, though, those annual sales figures have risen and fallen, either slightly or noticeably. The MAC understood and adjusted.

"One thing we've tried to focus on in the last couple of years is getting people away from transaction fundraising in our annual fund," Borman said. "We don't want people to give just their per-seat minimum. We don't want them to give a certain level just to get a Blue Lot parking pass. We want to sell them on the difference they're making in the lives of our student-athletes by not only giving to that fund, but by giving more than just what is required to get tickets or a parking pass."

Two ideas in particular have proved useful. The MAC has stressed a "next level" concept to many donors, encouraging them to jump from the donation point they were for one year to the next level in the following year. Understanding that might be difficult for some patrons, the MAC has also recommended its Give 112% concept in which donors donate the same they did the year before, plus another 12 percent.

The MAC had something similar before, but changed the goal from 110 percent to 112 upon entering the Big 12.

"Our goal is to get as many people as possible involved in that fund," Borman said. "We want to add to that every year and also encourage those individuals already involved to increase what they're giving. Every year we're trying to build on that fund."

Borman can do that better now because his arm of the athletic department is finally stable. His eight-person department lost two major gift officers last spring to jobs like Borman's at Eastern Michigan and Creighton.

"We lost two guys who had built strong relationships with donors in the areas they were working, and replacing that immediately is impossible," Borman said. "We were fully staffed in August and had people back on the road building those relationships again."

It's much like when a football program loses an assistant coach to another school. The team has to find a new assistant who can coach the position, but also has to find a way to make sure the team keeps recruiting the area the departing coach worked.

WVU hired M.G. Bailey from George Washington and put him in charge of Washington, D.C., and the metropolitan New York area. Jacob Kirkham came to WVU from Utah and works throughout Virginia and south Florida, but he's also spending time in places he knows in California.

Ben Murray, the associate athletic director in charge of major gifts, covers Texas. Wheeling native Kevin Miller, the assistant athletic director in charge of annual fund, came to WVU from Georgia State and handles Atlanta. Mike Gilstorf manages Phoenix and north Florida.

All five have their own regions in West Virginia.

"We really have a history in a majority of the areas that have a high concentration of alumni," Borman said. "If the WVU Foundation or the Alumni Association suddenly realizes we've got a lot more donors in a certain area we haven't been too active in, we'll be out there trying to add new areas. Moving to the Big 12, we focused a little more on Texas and the additional opportunities to reach out to donors and give them opportunities they haven't had before."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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Big 12's biggest team awaits Mountaineers on Tuesday http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150223/DM03/150229686 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150223/DM03/150229686 Mon, 23 Feb 2015 21:36:43 -0500 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN - With two weeks remaining in the regular season, there are four teams with a chance to win the Big 12 title.

No. 20 West Virginia is one of them, perhaps improbably because of the size of some of its losses and the depths of some of its statistical rankings, but perhaps logically as well because of how the Mountaineers operate.

"This group, for whatever reason, hasn't lacked in confidence," WVU coach Bob Huggins said.

The same could be said for No. 8 Kansas, which lost early in the season by 32 points to top-ranked Kentucky and then later by 25 points on the road against Temple, but is in first place after winning or sharing the last 10 regular-season titles. The Jayhawks and second-place and 12th-ranked Iowa State, which lost at Texas Tech and is 2-5 on the road in Big 12 play, haven't taken back-to-back losses this season.

The Mountaineers have, but just once, while third-place and 16th-ranked Oklahoma has twice. That came during a dangerous 3-4 start to Big 12 play, but the Sooners have overshadowed that by going 7-1 since.

"More than anything else, it's going to happen because of parity," Huggins said. "There's just no one who is just head and shoulders above anybody."

Technically, that's proven to be true in the Big 12, the top-rated conference according to the RPI and the Sagarin Ratings. Literally, though, there is an exception and it's coming to the Coliseum on Tuesday night. The Mountaineers (21-6, 9-5 Big 12) play host to Texas (17-10, 6-8) at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

The Longhorns have lost two in a row and have only beaten TCU, Texas Tech and Kansas State, the bottom three teams in the conference standings, to go 4-6 since beating WVU last month. They are still the tallest, longest and bulkiest team in the Big 12 with three starters and two reserves standing between 6-foot-8 and 6-11 and weighing between 240 and 285 pounds - and that's presuming Cameron Ridley is just 6-9, 285.

The Mountaineers didn't handle that well in three losses last season or in the 77-50 loss this season. Sustaining their championship dreams means finally finding a way past Texas.

"Run around it," Huggins said. "We didn't do a very good job. We missed a bunch of shots and we kind of panicked. I think that was the first time we ever really got down like that. We panicked a little bit and took shots we shouldn't take. We took them too quickly and we rushed things inside."

The numbers remain ugly. The Mountaineers still haven't finished with fewer points, baskets (13), assists (five) and points off turnovers (eight), a lower shooting percentage (24.1) and a worse rebounding margin (minus-12). WVU has trailed by at least 10 points in seven games this season but has never faced a deficit larger than the 29 points it saw late in the Erwin Center.

"I think it was a lot of things at once," Huggins said. "We didn't make shots. I think we had some new guys who weren't really accustom to them, no matter how much you tell them about their size. They're the best shot-blocking team in America. They've got more guys who can block shots than anybody else - well, maybe Kentucky's got more, but it's close. It changes things.

"We just didn't score the ball. We started up 5-0 and then we didn't score the ball for almost 10 minutes, and then you can't pressure. Then when you can, you can't because you kind of lose it when you can't score. I just don't think we were equipped to deal with it at that point of the year."

WVU was 15-7 before the loss, which took the team's average margin of defeat from 1.5 points to 10 points per game. The Mountaineers nevertheless rallied, needing overtime to beat TCU, scrapping together a win at Kansas State and then handling Texas Tech by 18 points at home.

Then again, those three teams have been good to the rest of the league, too, and reality seemed to reintroduce itself in consecutive losses to Oklahoma by 19 points and Baylor by 18. A narrow win at home against Kansas State was a brief reprieve before a 20-point loss at Iowa State.

The Mountaineers feel better now than they have all season, though, thanks to wins last week against Kansas and Oklahoma State, the current epitome of life in the Big 12 with three straight losses to fall out of the rankings after three straight wins against ranked teams. Before last week's wins, WVU's conference victories were against the three bottom teams and the Sooners, who righted that wrong with a romp at home.

Now WVU can make a fix of its own and look worthy of a top spot in the standings by proving the first Texas game was, as Huggins described, a "calamity of errors" his players believe they have since overcome.

"As bad as we played, the game still really wasn't too far out of hand until the second half," said point guard Juwan Staten, who averaged 21.5 points and 5.5 assists last week and shot 51 percent from the floor and 60 percent from 3-point range to win his third conference player of the week award this season.

"We just didn't play a good game. We didn't force them to do anything they didn't want to do. We couldn't run offense. Our press wasn't effective. It really wasn't anything they did. I think it was that we played a real bad basketball game. I think we're much better since then and now we want to keep that momentum and take it forward."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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WVU rises to No. 20 in AP top 25 poll http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150223/DM03/150229704 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150223/DM03/150229704 Mon, 23 Feb 2015 19:40:31 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - After defeating nationally ranked teams in consecutive games for the fifth time in program history, the West Virginia University men's basketball team climbed to No. 20 in the Associated Press top 25 poll. The rankings were released Monday afternoon.

The Mountaineers are 21-6 overall and 9-5 in the Big 12 after they beat No. 8 Kansas and No. 22 Oklahoma State last week. WVU, which moved up three spots in the media poll, hosts unranked Texas on Tuesday night.

West Virginia is one of five Big 12 teams in the top 25, following No. 8 Kansas, No. 12 Iowa State, No. 16 Oklahoma and No. 19 Baylor.

Kentucky is the unanimous No. 1 for the fourth straight week.

The Wildcats (27-0) received all 65 first-place votes from a 65-member media panel Monday after routing Tennessee and Auburn last week.

Virginia remained No. 2, followed by Gonzaga, Duke, Wisconsin, Villanova and Arizona. It's the first time the top seven have remained the same for six straight weeks since 1992-93.

Northern Iowa moved into the top 10 for the first time in school history, sliding in behind No. 8 Kansas and No. 9 Notre Dame.

San Diego State returned to the poll at No. 24, and No. 25 Providence was ranked for the first time since the final poll of 2003-04.

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Running back Garrison leaves WVU football program http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150223/DM03/150229705 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150223/DM03/150229705 Mon, 23 Feb 2015 19:02:43 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia running back Dustin Garrison announced on his Twitter page Monday he's leaving the team to play somewhere else for his final season.

Garrison. who later confirmed the news for the Charleston Daily Mail, is a fifth-year senior with one season of eligibility remaining.

Garrison is from New Orleans and came to WVU from Houston. He fled his home with his family before Hurricane Katrina and was the best player in Houston as a high school senior, when he led Pearland High to an undefeated season and a state championship.

The 5-foot-8, 185-pound Garrison was WVU's starter as a freshman and set the school's freshman record with 291 yards against Bowling Green in 2011.

Garrison tore knee ligaments before the Orange Bowl that season and was used sparingly the following season. He redshirted in 2013 because of a hamstring injury and carried just 20 times this past season.

Garrison would have returned to a situation with juniors Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood ahead of him and senior Andrew Buie and redshirt freshman Dontae Thomas-Williams battling for carries.

Garrison is on track to graduate in the spring and would be eligible next season at a Division I school.

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WVU rides consecutive top 25 wins into pesky Texas matchup http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150222/DM03/150229767 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150222/DM03/150229767 Sun, 22 Feb 2015 21:13:39 -0500 By Mike Casazza

Click here for more analysis from Mike Casazza

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia is home for what amounts to a break in the brutish Big 12 Tuesday with a game against an unranked team.

Yet that unranked team is Texas, which beat the Mountaineers 77-50 last month. The Longhorns have won the past four games in the series by 11, 17, 17 and 27 points and led by at least 21 in each.

"We're definitely feeling some type of way about that game and how it went in Texas," WVU point guard Juwan Staten said after Saturday's 73-63 road win against then-No. 22 Oklahoma State. "There should be a little extra, added motivation."

The Mountaineers (21-6, 9-5 Big 12), who have played eight of their conference games against ranked teams and two more against a team that was ranked previously, were No. 23 last week and will rise in Monday's poll after beating the Cowboys and No. 8 Kansas. In six days, they doubled their win total against top-25 teams, and the back-to-back wins followed stretches of three losses in four games by 20, 19 and 18 points and four losses in eight games.

The longer stretch began with the road loss to the Longhorns (17-10, 6-8). WVU finished with the season's worst totals for points, baskets (13), field goal percentage (24.1), assists (five), rebounding margin (minus-12) and points off turnovers (eight).

"We want them, to be honest," said WVU forward Devin Williams, who has 13 points and 10 rebounds in four career games against Texas and its formidable frontcourt. "They're a great team and we respect that team. They have some great big men, some great guards and a great coach, stuff like that, but we're going after them."

Bob Huggins, who will finish the season as the 11th-winningest Division I coach of all-time and possibly also the Big 12 coach of the year, admired his team's enthusiasm, but wouldn't match it because of the time he has to prepare for Texas and its 2-3 zone.

The Mountaineers flew home Saturday, practiced Sunday and will practice again Monday.

"I'd just as soon play it on Wednesday, but they don't let me vote on it for some reason," Huggins said.

Quick turnarounds aren't new in the league, and WVU has handled them well. It began by opening Big 12 play with a Saturday-Monday set and wins on the road against TCU and Texas Tech. The season's other Saturday-Monday saw the Mountaineers lose at Iowa State and beat Kansas.

WVU has played two other Saturday-Tuesday sets, losing at home to the Cyclones and winning at home against Oklahoma and later winning at home against TCU and winning at Kansas State. In a Wednesday-Saturday set, WVU won at home against Kansas State and lost at Iowa State.

The only other time the team traveled home after the first game was this past week, when the Mountaineers lost by 20 at Iowa State and then redefined their season by beating Kansas.

The Mountaineers aren't new to that, so this could be easier than last week. Having five days between the Jayhawks and Cowboys wasn't quite what Huggins wanted, but he made it work.

"The good thing about going into (Saturday's) game was we had two good days of practice," he said. "We got a little out of whack, but we could go a little harder in practice than what we did there for a little while."

NCAA rules require one day off during a week. Huggins left his team alone Tuesday and Wednesday but then had to deal with some scheduling quirks.

"I thought we had a pretty good practice Thursday and an OK practice Friday, but it's kind of hard for them when they get out of their comfort zone," Huggins said. "We had to practice earlier and take an earlier flight and because of that we didn't really watch as much film as we normally watch. When we got to the hotel (Friday evening), that was the first time we'd watched film on Oklahoma State."

Not surprisingly, whether because of the circumstances leading up to the game or just because of who they are, the Mountaineers missed 8 of 10 shots to start the game and trailed 13-4 when Huggins called a timeout.

He reminded his players what he cautioned them about before the game, one they played with guard Jevon Carter under the weather, forward Brandon Watkins (left MCL sprain) watching from the bench for a third straight outing and guard Tarik Phillip never seeing the floor.

"I thought they'd be OK, but I told them before the game started I didn't see the bounce," Huggins said. "I just didn't see the bounce we'd had. My fear was we don't come out to play and meet their intensity level and play as hard as they do and we're really going to struggle. I thought our guys really responded to that."

WVU's reaction was a 9-0 run on 4-for-5 shooting. The score was tied 25-25 at halftime, but the Mountaineers started the second half with a 13-2 run. The Cowboys made eight shots in both halves and went 8:29 without a basket in the first half and 8:31 without a basket in the second half. They only took 36 shots, matching the lowest total by a WVU opponent this season. It's been 16 seasons since an opponent attempted fewer.

The Mountaineers shot 40.4 percent, but made a season-high 10 3-pointers on 20 attempts and had assists on 14 of 19 baskets. They outrebounded Oklahoma State 37-20, and 18 offensive rebounds led to a 16-4 advantage in second-chance points.

"The team competed and played well, played excellently," Staten said. "Usually we come out after halftime and have lulls, and throughout the game we can have rough spots. We kept it together and played tough. Defensively, we still fouled too much, but for the most part we played good defense and we executed on offense."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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WVU smothers No. 22 Oklahoma State for road win http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150221/DM03/150229835 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150221/DM03/150229835 Sat, 21 Feb 2015 18:03:25 -0500 By Mike Casazza STILLWATER, Okla. - Winning on the road, in a building West Virginia hadn't won in against the only team it hadn't beaten since joining the Big 12, was something of a surprise Saturday.

How the Mountaineers got by Oklahoma State really wasn't.

No. 23 WVU used its defense to beat the 22nd-ranked Cowboys, hardly a startling development from the team that presses from start to finish and leads the nation in steals and turnovers forced per game.

But the Mountaineers didn't use all 94 feet to beat Oklahoma State 73-63 before a crowd of 8,610 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

"That's probably as well as we've played in the halfcourt," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.

WVU had a season-low five steals and forced 15 turnovers, the third-lowest total of the season, but allowed only 10 points in the paint and just 36 shot attempts. The Mountaineers (21-6, 9-5 Big 12) held the Cowboys (17-8, 7-8) without a basket for 8:29 in the first half and 8:31 in the second half.

Wofford had six points in the paint earlier this season against WVU and North Carolina State attempted 36 shots - and it has been 16 seasons since an opponent took fewer shots in a game.

"I thought we did a pretty good job for the most part keeping them in front of us," said Huggins, who admitted he backed off his press at times to manage foul trouble. "They had to work hard to get shots. And then we weren't in any hurry to take shots on our end, either. That tends to make the game go a little faster."

WVU's 47 shots were a season-low, but that was accompanied by another little surprise. The Mountaineers matched a season high set against Virginia Tech with 10 3-pointers in 20 attempts to cap a momentous week that began with Monday's home win against No. 8 Kansas.

"The confidence to beat Kansas and to play the way we played against them, that lets us know when we play as a team and everyone contributes and does what they're supposed to do, we can have success against everybody," WVU point guard Juwan Staten said.

Saturday's 3s came from unexpected sources at important times, too. Billydee Williams, who was 0 for 10 on the season before making one against Kansas, was 2 for 2 in the first half with WVU searching for offense. Staten was on the bench with two fouls for the final 8:40 of the half and Gary Browne struggled in his place, going 0 for 5 before halftime.

At the start of the second half, when the Mountaineers have struggled of late, Daxter Miles made 3s on back-to-back possessions to take WVU from down 29-28 to up 34-29. The Mountaineers would never trail again.

Miles was 9 for 38 from 3-point range before that in Big 12 play. His shots keyed a 13-2 run that put WVU in control of a game that was tied 25-25 at halftime.

Browne would make three 3s in the second half for leads of six, 13 and 14 points and Staten had the game's most significant score when he made a 3 from the top of the key as the shot clock was set to expire. The final 3 of the game put WVU ahead 61-48 with 5:13 to go.

"We've got guys who can shoot the ball," Browne said. "It's a matter of sometimes we lose our rhythm and sometimes we don't know when to shoot the 3."

Browne led the way with a career-best 18 points and eight rebounds. Staten had 22 points and seven assists. They combined to make 18 of 22 free throws and couldn't be kept from getting to the line late in the game.

"We put the ball in our two seniors' hands and let them try to make plays for us," Huggins said. "We didn't run a whole lot of stuff."

Devin Williams missed 8 of 10 shots, but still had nine points and 12 rebounds as WVU outrebounded Oklahoma State 37-20. Eighteen offensive rebounds led to a 16-4 edge in second chance points.

Oklahoma State trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half, but worked to get the deficit to eight points. Tyree Griffin, who was 2 for 10 from 3-point range all season and 1 for 4 in Big 12 play, missed an open 3 from the corner with 3:09 remaining. Browne followed with free throws and Staten made a layup to end the drama.

It took until the third season in the conference, but the Mountaineers have now beaten every Big 12 team and won away from home after losing by 27 points to Texas, 19 to Oklahoma and 20 to Iowa State since the start of conference play.

"We've got a lot of young guys and they don't know better because this is their first time," Browne said. "They just think this is another win, which is good. We've got to keep them like that. But they're too young to understand this is a hell of a win."

Le'Bryan Nash, who scored 29 points here against WVU last season, had 12 points on 3-for-9 shooting and fouled out with 1:30 remaining. The Big 12's second-leading scorer was averaging 17 points per game. Michael Cobbins and Anthony Hickey both had 11 points. Phil Forte added 10, though he was the victim of the best example of WVU's half-court defense.

Forte was 1 for 3 from the floor and attempted only one 3-pointer. Forte came into the game as the Big 12's third-leading scorer (16.5 points per game) and fourth-leading 3-point shooter (40.8 percent), but he couldn't escape from Browne.

"I told Coach I was going to get him. I wasn't even going to let him touch the ball," Browne said. "He only scored on me at the free-throw line. That's it. No 3s, no nothing outside that. He took two shots against me."

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WVU's Carter watches and learns from Staten http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150219/DM03/150219152 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150219/DM03/150219152 Thu, 19 Feb 2015 22:05:17 -0500 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Juwan Staten made a game-winning layup and then a game-saving defensive play to beat No. 8 Kansas on Monday and clinch a war of words and ways with the Jayhawks' Frank Mason. It made Staten smile for what it meant in the moment, for what it meant for the season and for what it meant about the decision he made back in March.

"That's why I came back to school," he said.

A lot of people were happy to hear Staten would wait another year before pursuing the NBA, but it'd be hard to believe anyone was more excited than Jevon Carter, who was still months away from enrolling at WVU.

"I'd been watching him when I was in high school," the freshman guard said. "I knew that if I wanted to be good at the next level, I needed to learn from somebody, a player like him who I could listen to and do everything he tells me to do."

Carter follows Staten with the rest of the 23rd-ranked Mountaineers (20-6, 8-5 Big 12) into Saturday's 2 p.m. game against No. 22 Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena. The game will be televised on ESPNEWS.

The Cowboys (17-9, 7-7) have lost two straight games after a three-game winning streak against ranked teams. WVU is in fourth place in the Big 12 standings and a game ahead of No. 20 Baylor with a road game against the Bears waiting on Feb. 28.

More importantly, the Mountaineers are one game out of second place and two games out of first and have a road game remaining against first-place Kansas on March 3. The the top six teams are off for the first day of next month's Big 12 tournament. The top two teams play the winners of the opening games between the 7-10 seeds and the 8-9 seeds.

The Cowboys are 11-3 at home and have the two of the league's top three scorers in Le'Bryan Nash (17 points per game) and Phil Forte (16.5) as well as a zone press defense powered by Forte and Anthony Hickey, who lead the league in steals per game (2.08).

Yet WVU has shaken off three losses in four games to ready for four ranked opponents in the final five games. How they the arrived here can be traced back to March and everything that has happened since.

When Staten made the layup with 3.9 seconds to go and then sprinted back on defense to complicate the layup Perry Ellis missed, it made sense Carter was right there, too. And when Staten was hit by cramps late in the game, he knew others were watching when he'd come out of the game, get a quick remedy and return to the game.

"I knew if I'd sit out, I didn't think we'd have much of a chance," Staten said. "Me going out there let my teammates see I was there for them, no matter what's going on with me. I felt like that would help us out, and in the end it did."

But before the end, Carter cramped up, too, and took little breaks and big sips of Gatorade to get himself back on the floor. Carter made 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to take the Mountaineers from a five-point deficit to a one-point lead with 2:31 remaining.

"That comes with playing hard," said Carter, who is third on the team in points per game (8.3) and third in the Big 12 in steals per game (1.85). "It's a long season. The doc told me I've got to eat more fruit. My legs got real tight on me, but warriors fight through it. They fight through everything."

The first 3-pointer was a play designed and called for Carter, who shoots just 31.2 percent from 3-point range, but has Staten's praise as "one of the best shooters I've been around."

"I've got the preseason Big 12 player of the year," WVU coach Bob Huggins said, "and I'm drawing up plays for a freshman."

So was the preseason player of the year. The second 3-pointer came on an assist from Staten, who has a penchant for taking games over late, but who for days had been pleading with Carter to think less and shoot more.

"I've got a lot of confidence in him, but I always talk to him to get him to shoot the ball," Staten said. "What better way to show the confidence I have in him than to get him the ball like that? I just made that one pass to him and hoped he didn't have time to think about anything other than shooting it."

With the outcome of the game, and the direction of the season, in his hands, Carter's shot was on while his brain was off.

"I wasn't really even focused on the score," Carter said. "When I hit the 3s, I honestly thought the game was tied, and when I hit the first shot, I thought we went up. I didn't know we were still losing. Then (after the second) I looked up at the scoreboard and saw we were up one. 'Didn't I just hit two 3s? Shouldn't we be winning by more? We must have been down a whole lot.'

"I just didn't even know. I was playing so hard I didn't even look at the score."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter @mikecasazza.

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Chuck McGill: White's 40 time could decide draft fate http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150219/DM03/150219154 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150219/DM03/150219154 Thu, 19 Feb 2015 22:04:02 -0500 By Chuck McGill CHARLESTON, W.Va. - It'll be over in the time it takes a person to dial a phone number or take a swig of soda, but the tenths of seconds could mean millions to Kevin White.

The former West Virginia University wide receiver, who developed into a Biletnikoff Award finalist as one of college football's top receivers last season, will participate in the 40-yard dash during this weekend's NFL combine in Indianapolis. It is one of the most-anticipated evaluation moments of the pre-draft event.

"Kevin White's my No. 1 wideout," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said this week. "I think if he runs a 4.5 or better, he's a top 10 pick."

Mayock means 4.5 seconds. If White covers 40 yards in that time, teams might as well be tossing money bags instead of footballs on those deep routes, because White will haul a lot of cash in if he answers questions about his speed.

ESPN's Todd McShay has White going No. 10 in the draft to the Rams and McShay's colleague, Mel Kiper, has White projected at No. 11 to the Vikings. Last year's No. 9 pick, Anthony Barr, signed a four-year, $12.74 million deal with a $7.58 million signing bonus. The No. 12 pick, Odell Beckham, signed a four-year, $10.4 million dollar deal with a $5.89 million signing bonus, so those projections have White already earning some serious coin.

But if White posts an impressive 40 time, he could work his way into the conversation as the fourth overall pick by the Oakland Raiders, a receiver-needy team. Last season's No. 4 pick, Sammy Watkins, signed a $19.94 contract with a signing bonus of $12.8 million.

That'd make White the highest WVU draft pick since Dick Leftridge went No. 3 overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1966.

"I would expect at No. 4 that's where (the Raiders) ought to be targeting, and again, I think they've got to grind the heck out of Kevin White, Amari Cooper and DeVante Parker," Mayock said. "I think Cooper from Alabama has got the highest score. In other words, I think he's the safest pick of that group ..."

But White's skill set is tantalizing for front office decision-makers. At Thursday's combine, White measured at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, with 32 5/8-inch arms and 9 1/4-inch hands. His listed height and weight at WVU was 6-3, 209, so the size is legit. But what about the speed?

White is competing for the position of top overall receiver with the aforementioned Cooper, who starred at Alabama, and Parker, who played at Louisville. Mayock said the 6-foot-1, 211-pound Cooper reminds him of former St. Louis Rams receiver Torry Holt.

"The other two, Kevin White and DeVante Parker, are bigger bodied guys where you can throw it up and they can win jump balls," Mayock said. "I would imagine that one of those three guys are going to be their pick, and I think any one of the three could be highly productive."

Mayock has no doubt that White will put up numbers right away, no matter where he is selected. White finished his senior season at WVU third nationally in receptions (109), sixth in receiving yards (1,447) and tied for 20th in touchdown receptions (10). He had only eight drops.

"I think the league is set up to be productive more so than ever for rookie wide receivers and tight ends," Mayock said. "This particular class, Kevin White, Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker are consensus top-20 picks. However, after that, there's a bunch of question marks."

There are analysts who think even more highly of White. Mayock's colleague at the NFL Network, Daniel Jeremiah, has White as the No. 3 overall prospect in this year's draft behind Southern California defensive end Leonard Williams and Nebraska linebacker Randy Gregory.

Only five receivers have been drafted in the top five in the past decade: Sammy Watkins (No. 4, Bills, 2014), Justin Blackmon (No. 5, Jaguars, 2012), A.J. Green (No. 4, Bengals, 2011), Calvin Johnson (No. 2, Lions, 2007) and Braylon Edwards (No. 3, Browns, 2005).

White could also be the ninth receiver taken in the top 10 since 2009. If so, four of those players - Tavon Austin, Blackmon, Michael Crabtree and White - will have played for Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen. Austin was selected No. 8 overall in the 2013 draft by the Rams. Austin was the top wideout drafted that season, and White could make it two out of three for WVU if he goes before any other pass catcher in April's first round.

"My No. 1 wide receiver is Kevin White from West Virginia," Mayock said. "I think I know what Amari Cooper is, what a great football player he is. But I have Kevin White above him because I think he's got a higher ceiling. I think his potential is greater. He's 6-foot-3, 219 pounds. But I want to know what he runs. I have all over my notes that he's a 4.5 flat guy. If he's a 4.58, I have to go back and look at my notes again."

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Times for WVU baseball games changed http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150218/DM03/150219230 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150218/DM03/150219230 Wed, 18 Feb 2015 21:36:05 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - MORGANTOWN - Due to weather and travel, all three game times between the West Virginia University baseball team and Georgia Southern have been changed this weekend.

Friday's game will now begin at 4 p.m., Saturday's game will start at 1 p.m. and Sunday's finale will begin at 12:30 p.m. All three contests still will be played at Clements Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia.

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Mike Casazza: Win against Kansas a reminder of what WVU ought to be http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150218/DM03/150219242 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150218/DM03/150219242 Wed, 18 Feb 2015 20:28:00 -0500 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va - The most talented team on the basketball court Monday night was not the better team, and that's been true for some of West Virginia's other 19 wins this season.

Not all of them, of course. There have been times among the 20 triumphs when the Mountaineers were more talented. It was that way for most of their 12 non-conference wins, and they've had the ability edge for some of the eight conference wins.

The big win on Big Monday against eighth-ranked Kansas was not one of those nights, but the scoreboard showed No. 22 WVU was one play and thus one point better. That's the only reality worth tracking as the NCAA Tournament approaches, not because it moved the Mountaineers closer to returning to the event they nearly won in 2010 and haven't been to the past two years, but because it's a reminder of who they ought to be.

Bob Huggins recites a few platitudes about WVU that seem to lack any meaning until you're reminded how true they are. The Mountaineers have to outrebound opponents. They have to create more turnovers than they commit. They have to take many more shots than the opponent.

But one of their losses came with a plus-8 rebounding margin. Four of their losses came when they had more turnovers. WVU has even taken more shots in every one of its six losses - and not a few more shots, but 79 more shots.

In the wins, whether the 12 before the Big 12 schedule or the eight within in, just one of the Mountaineers' many mantras has remained true. Its starting five isn't going to beat the other team, but the collection of 11 or 12 or 13 players and the mark they leave on the game will.

WVU (20-6, 8-5 Big 12) came at the Jayhawks in waves Monday. There was an early 10-2 lead and then a 33-30 lead at the half. There was the comeback from down seven early in the second half to tie the score late and then a push at the finish to win the game. The Mountaineers used 12 players. Nine scored. Eight rebounded. Seven assisted, Six stole. Five made a 3-pointer.

WVU outrebounded Kansas 37-32 (and was plus-11 in offensive rebounding) and forced 14 turnovers while committing just 10. That led to 15 more shots than Kansas, and the sum of those numbers helped the Mountaineers survive shooting 37.1 percent.

"It took a team effort," forward Jon Holton said. "One man couldn't do this by himself. The defense was the key. It started with the press causing turnovers and we bothered them."

It's happened at times this season for WVU, and when it does happen, it awakens a dangerous confidence in the Mountaineers, who know they're about to turn in an unrelenting performance that the other team won't enjoy. It just hadn't happened much lately, certainly not in losing three out of four and five of 10 before taking down the Jayhawks.

But practically everyone in a white jersey did something to affect come, from Juwan Staten's 20 points, four assists and no turnovers in 32 minutes to Chase Connor playing just 8.3 seconds and screening for Staten's game-winning layup.

Holton didn't try a 3-pointer and made two of his three more reasonable shots in 22 mostly foul-free minutes. He finished with five points and nine rebounds, six on offense. It was the most effective he'd been in weeks. He hadn't had as many rebounds since Dec. 4, as many baskets since Feb. 3, as high a shooting percentage since Jan. 3 and as many minutes since Jan. 24.

Nathan Adrian, who'd been forced to play more because of Holton's ineffectiveness despite his own season-long scoring and shooting problems, was no less impactful. He missed 6 of 7 shots and all four of his 3-point attempts, but he played big under the basket with Devin Williams in foul trouble and also pump-faked a defender to the floor before stepping into an easy jump shot he actually made.

"Nate was really, really good," Huggins said. "He kind of saved the bacon for us."

Billydee Williams, who in limited time lately proved to be active but unreliable and showed a knack for doing everything right but the part that mattered, made a 3-pointer and gave WVU four rebounds. He was one more presence on offense and defense Kansas had to address for his 10 minutes, the second straight game he's played double-digit minutes after doing so only twice before that.

"He continues to learn," Huggins said. "He hasn't had the same reps everybody else has, but that's his fault because he didn't play hard enough to deserve reps early. But he's playing better now."

This is all important, not merely because forward Brandon Watkins missed a second straight game with a sprained left MCL, that coming after he'd surged to more playing time and had 14 points and nine rebounds against Kansas State. Holton solidified the starting five. Williams and Adrian and Connor and Jevon Carter, who made two enormous 3s late in the game, propelled the bench.

WVU had a line of players to trip up the Jayhawks, a line it can't forget the rest of the way.

"It just goes to show you can't do it by yourself," Carter said. "We need all our guys doing everything they can do for us."

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