The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

December 17, 2013

WVU cagers one up on gridders

MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University men’s basketball team did something last Saturday night that the WVU football squad couldn’t do in a 4-8 season of 2013 disasters.

Coach Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers of the hardwood found a way to finish a game. This, despite trailing on the scoreboard for nearly 36 of the 40 minutes to pull out a 74-64 victory against state rival Marshall.

A turnout of 11,038 saw this latest rendition of the Capital Classic at the Charleston Civic Center. If you think in terms of what was a poorly played first-half performance, however, perhaps you would not consider it a classic.

Yet this was a nip-and-tuck contest in which West Virginia (7-4) stayed within shooting distance of the Thundering Herd (4-6) until Juwan Staten triggered the winning rally.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior guard drove for a layup, was fouled and made his free throw. That gave the team its first lead of the game at 63-62 with 3:41 remaining.

Staten, who’s from Dayton, Ohio, finished with 19 points, six rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes of action.

He said, “I probably took it on myself to do a little more.” That’s not surprising to Huggins or the other players.

“We kept the ball in Juwan Staten’s hands, which was a great coaching move,” Huggins told reporters. “No one else could hold onto it.

“He did a great job. He got people open and he obviously scored himself.”

Staten said simply, “We just executed. We made the right plays. That’s what won the game for us.”

Brandon Watkins, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward, was named the Most Valuable Player for the game. He had 12 points and 11 rebounds in his longest stint so far (25 minutes).

Watkins, who made 6 of 7 shots from the field, is from Decatur, Ga. He happens to be a nephew of WVU Hall of Famer and Greenbrier East High School graduate Warren Baker (1973-76).

It most certainly was encouraging that five members of Huggins’ young team scored 10 or more points each. Such well-spread production obviously could make this a successful season, hopefully including a postseason appearance.

WVU shooting 50 percent from the field (25 of 50) while limiting Marshall to 41.3 percent (25 of 60) also was good to see.

Marshall managed to outrebound WVU 38-35, but with Watkins getting more playing time as he keeps learning, perhaps that will help work on the boards.

In making the series record 31-11, the Mountaineers averted a third straight defeat this season.

The West Virginia men do not return to action until 1 p.m. next Sunday against Purdue at the WVU Coliseum. A large crowd is expected.

Purdue has a 10-3 record. But the Boilermakers have a home game on Tuesday night against Maryland-Eastern Shore before coming to Morgantown.

WVU has beaten Purdue just once in the six meetings of this series. The game will be televised by ESPNU.

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