MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For one night, the shooting woes that sabotaged West Virginia last season were forgotten.
WVU made six of its first seven shots, closed the half shooting 66 percent, and cruised to a 77-62 victory over Mount Saint Mary’s. What’s more, the Mountaineers did it without perhaps their best perimeter shooter Terry Henderson, who sat out the opener with a shin injury.
“I want people to see how good we can be when Terry’s back,” said Eron Harris, who scored 14 of his 19 points in the first half. “That’s another shooting threat, and everybody knows how good Terry can shoot the ball.”
Soon everybody might know the same about point guard Juwan Staten, who showed a sharp midrange game in scoring a career-high 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor and 8-of-10 on free throws.
“Coach Huggs told me I need to be more aggressive, that I needed to work on getting to the line more,” said Staten, who still hasn’t sank a 3-pointer since February 2011 but didn’t attempt one Friday night. There was no need—the junior was too comfortable getting into his sweet spot for jumpers at the foul line extended.
“He’s in here before and after practice working on his shot,” said coach Bob Huggins. “He has put the time in.”
In a 40-minute performance, Staten added six assists, five rebounds, two steals and only one turnover. His floor control essentially neutered the full-court “Mayhem” press Mount Saint Mary’s attempted to deploy. WVU (1-0) committed only eight turnovers.
“I just felt like coming in that they couldn’t press us,” Huggins said. “(Staten) has got great strength, quickness and explosion. He’s doing the things you have to do: Staying off the sidelines, getting the ball to the middle of the floor, getting his head up.”
Julian Norfleet scored 19 points to top Mount Saint Mary’s (0-1), which shot 40 percent for the game compared to WVU’s 56 percent.
“(West Virginia) did a great job of flying at our shooters,” said Mount Saint Mary’s coach Jamion Christian.
Brandon Watkins, viewed as a project last spring when he signed out of Decatur, Ga., replaced the foul-hampered Devin Williams early in the first half and contributed 10 points, four rebounds and several altered shots.
“I was real nervous, but seeing that first shot go in, it kind of calmed my nerves a little bit,” Watkins said. “After that I was like, OK, I can play on this level.”
The 6-9 forward made 5-of-7 from the floor
“Brandon has gotten worlds better, just absolutely worlds better,” Huggins said. “There were a lot of people who didn’t think Brandon would make it (when he enrolled) because he was so slow with everything. But he’s really working, he’s trying—he’s just got so much to learn.”
Nathan Adrian became the first Morgantown signee to start for WVU since Howie Schertzinger in 1957, and the half-century wait was worth it as the freshman made all four shots, including three from 3-point range. He left with a sprained ankle in the second half, having played 25 minutes.
“Every time he starts limping, I think, ‘Oh God’ because I’m afraid it might be his foot,” Huggins said in reference to the broken bone that cost Adrian a chunk of his senior season at Morgantown High. “He said it wasn’t his foot, that it was his ankle. It’s the same ankle he’s sprained three or four times.”
QUIET NIGHT FOR WILLIAMS
Williams scored seven points in his regular-season debut and snagged only one rebound against an undersized mid-major opponent.
“If you told me he would have one rebound I would have to say that’s a lie,” Staten said.
Williams said this week he was ready to produce a 20-rebound game and that he didn’t think anyone in the country could guard him on the low post. Friday night he was 2-of-6 shooting in 27 minutes of action.
“I actually love that he made that comment, because it shows he’s not going to be scared with any team that we play,” Staten said. “Maybe as the season goes on, he’ll get more comfortable and maybe become a force we can throw it to down there and he can score on every play. That’s what we’re hoping for.”