MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Though he scored 31 points, Eron Harris hardly felt like he was putting on an offensive exhibition Monday night.
“My shot was going, sort of, but it can go more,” Harris said after making 6-of-12 from the floor in West Virginia’s 89-70 preseason victory over Division II Fairmont State. “It was very frustrating that I wasn’t hitting the shots that I’ve been working on.”
Charged with being WVU’s go-to scorer this season, the sophomore Harris looked the part statistically but faulted himself for committing a team-high three turnovers and forcing some shots.
“Coach Huggins gave me a talk and said I needed to play within myself,” Harris said. “At certain points of the game I was looking bad because I was playing outside myself. I need to calm that down.”
Morgantown High product Nathan Adrian scored 21 points and showed the 3-point stroke that made the freshman a sought-after signee. He sank 6-of-10 from beyond the arc, where WVU finished 12-of-27 overall. Gary Browne added 18 points and freshman Devin Williams yanked down a game-best 14 rebounds in a matchup that drew 5,375 to the Coliseum.
The crowd got a first-hand look at the NCAA’s crackdown on hand-checking and defensive contact, with 63 combined fouls leading to 83 free-throw attempts. Fairmont State was whistled for 40 of those and had four players foul out.
“There were three times when my guys fell down and they called a foul—it was comical,” said FSU coach Jerrod Calhoun, a former West Virginia assistant. “I was shocked with the amount of fouls called, but with these new rules you have to call them.”
West Virginia shot 54 free throws, led by Harris making 15-of-20 and Browne hitting 12-of-15. However, the Mountaineers’ big-men trio of Kevin Noreen, Brandon Watkins and Wiliiams combined to make only 2-of-8, dropping the team to 68 percent at the foul line.
Point guard Juwan Staten produced 13 points, three assists and played a turnover-free 30 minutes with WVU dressing only eight scholarship players.
Adrian played 31 minutes, starting in place of injured sophomore guard Terry Henderson (shin), and made two 3-pointers in the opening 90 seconds. “I’ve been going through a slump lately, so it’s good to shoot like that going out,” he said.
With ineligible power forwards Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon seemingly destined to sit out the season, WVU’s lineup became decidedly perimeter-oriented. Thus, the shot chart revealed fewer attempts inside the 3-point line (22) than behind it, and WVU shot 40 percent overall.
“We plan on getting the ball inside a lot more than we did tonight,” Adrian said. “We didn’t the ball inside too much today, which is why the shooting percentage was down.”
Coach Bob Huggins described Henderson’s injury as an inflamed shin muscle, somewhat of a relief after team doctors worried it might be a stress fracture. Henderson could be available for Friday’s season opener against Mount St. Mary’s.
“We definitely need him, and we’d love to have him Friday,” Staten said.
Junior college transfer Remi Dibo, two weeks removed from knee surgery and expected to sit out the game, entered for the final 2:18 and contributed a rebound.
“I was kind of surprised, because we really didn’t know where he was, as far as his knee,” Staten said. “He was doing some things in practice and some drills he was sitting out of.”
HOLLERING IN THE HUDDLE
Huggins spent the majority of a first-half timeout railing on Adrian for a defensive blunder.
“I let one of their guys drive straight line and score a layup,” said Adrian, an aw-shucks grin washing over his face. “You get chewed out for that.
Having had a preseason’s worth of practices to understand his coach’s emphatic reprimands, Adrian seems to have acclimated.
“(Huggins) is going to chew you out eventually, because there’s no way to be perfect. When he does it you’ve just got to learn from what he tells you and not get down on yourself.”
ROOTING FOR WVU
Even from the visitors’ bench, Fairmont’s second-year coach Calhoun retained some loyalty to West Virginia and wished his former program a successful turnaround from last season’s 13-19 record.
“It was a fun experience for me, being with Coach Huggins for so many years and recruiting Terry Henderson. I want these (WVU) guys to get this thing back, just as much as everyone else in Morgantown does. Hopefully we gave them something that they can look at and be ready to go on Friday.”
Stevie Browning, a sophomore from Logan High, led Fairmont State with 23 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Caleb Davis added 13 points for the Falcons, who shot 37 percent and trailed only 30-27 before WVU went on a 12-2 run late in the half.