NCAA Basketball Tournament - West Virginia v Gonzaga

In their first action in over a week West Virginia throttles Marist, 87-44

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The last time we saw the West Virginia Mountaineers there were getting run out of Spokane, as they fell to a very good Gonzaga team by the final score of 84-50. With more than a week to stew on that result it was clear that Bob Huggins’ team needed to make someone pay.

That someone was Marist.

Eron Harris (15 points) and Terry Henderson (14 points, six rebounds) led five Mountaineers in double figures as West Virginia rolled to an 87-44 win in the first game of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

West Virginia shot 52.9% from the field while limiting the Red Foxes to 27.1% shooting, and Chuck Martin’s charges didn’t do themselves any favors with 24 turnovers either.

West Virginia will take on the winner of Davidson/Vanderbilt in a semifinal on Friday while Marist will get the loser in a consolation bracket match-up.

Both Marist and West Virginia were a part of the first Old Spice Classic in 2006, with the Mountaineers finishing second and the Red Foxes third. And it goes without saying that Marist doesn’t have a player the caliber of a Jared Jordan or Will Whittington, two of the stars on that 2006 team.

For West Virginia Aaric Murray played all of his 15 minutes in the second half, finishing with ten points and five rebounds. In total the Mountaineers received 61 points from their bench, with four of the five players reaching double figures being reserves.

As the newcomers become more comfortable with Huggins’ expectations West Virginia will become a better basketball team. Today’s effort was a step in the right direction, regardless of the opponent.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.