MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — During stretches when Terry Henderson’s jump shots aren’t falling, he recoils into a low-impact version of himself, unable to hear his teammates over his own conscience.
Those teammates wish he’d ignore the C-word.
“Sometimes when he misses a couple of shots he tries to go away from it and do other things,” said West Virginia point guard Juwan Staten. “But we need him to shoot the ball. When he’s open he needs to let it fly.”
During an entertaining 87-81 win Wednesday night, Henderson let fly with certitude, scoring 20 of his career-best 28 points in the second half to one-up Texas Tech sharp-shooter Dusty Hannahs.
Was it coincidence Henderson’s best college game occurred four days after his worst? Or did the fallout from his 1-for-8 bummer at Kansas State on Saturday trigger some suppressed aggression in the sophomore guard?
“(K-State) was probably the worst game of the season for me,” Henderson said. “I just knew I had to bounce back, had to come out and play harder, had to come out in attack mode.”
“Attack” essentially was the message Staten texted to Henderson after the Mountaineers returned from a 22-point mauling in Manhattan, Kan., where Henderson’s only bucket came late in the already-decided game. Staten wasn’t offering feel-good encouragement so much as be-good insistence.
Henderson responded with two 3s on his way to eight points in the opening five minutes and WVU led 17-6. Upon missing his next three shots, however, and failing to score again the rest of the half, Henderson looked ripe to go quiet as WVU led just 40-39.
That’s when the prodding of teammates, and Henderson’s own inspiration to mimic his NBA heroes, sparked a 7-for-7 second half.
“I’ve been doing research during my down time—studying Ray Allen and guys like that,” he said. “Those guys are always looking at the next shot, not the last one. That’s something I’ve needed to work on.”
For a variety of reasons—from Remi Dibo’s benching, to Devin Williams’ foul trouble, to Texas Tech’s equally efficient 3-point shooting—West Virginia (11-8, 3-3 Big 12) needed Henderson to deliver far more than the two points he produced at K-State.
“I’ lying if I told you I thought he would go 10-of-13 and get 28, but I thought he would play much better,” Huggins said.
HANNAHS HANGS 25
A sizzling second-half shootout materialized between Henderson and Tech’s Hannahs, who nailed 7-of-7 from 3-point range—several from a spot on the right wing at least 25 feet from the basket. Though displeased about WVU letting such a heavily scouted shooter finding a comfort zone, Huggins admitted Hannahs dropped shots from beyond the range of typical defense.
“He made some shots that normally you’d say, ‘Let him shoot that,’” Huggins said. “There were a couple where Terry said he just didn’t think (Hannahs) would shoot it from that far.
“He had a heck of a game. I don’t think that’s the norm, but he had a heck of a game.”
While WVU’s Eron Harris credited Henderson for “playing with ultimate confidence,” he reserved some compliments for Hannahs: “He was feeling it tonight. I’ve got to give it to him. He’s a lot better than he was last year.”
The baby-faced Hannahs, a sophomore like Henderson, deflected postgame talk about the one-on-one matchup.
“He’s a great shooter that caught fire, and I guess I caught fire, too,” Hannahs said. “But they won—that’s all that matters.”
ON THE BOARDS
After being outrebounded 35-26 in Lubbock, West Virginia held a 29-26 edge in the rematch.
And the Mountaineers did so with leading rebounder Devin Williams on the bench for the final 14:39 after picking up his third and fourth fouls in compressed fashion.