It was a tight game and a wild ending in Morgantown this evening. Aaric Murray missed one of two line-drive free throw attempts with under a minute left, followed immediately by an absolutely ridic contested three-point make by Robert Brown that gave Virginia Tech a one-point edge. Juwan Staten reversed the lead with a driving layup with four seconds left, and still the game was not over. Only when Erick Green’s hurried 18-footer bounced off both sides of the rim could the 4-3 Mountaineers take a deep breath and celebrate a big win over a tough opponent.
Erick Green (23 points) and Robert Brown (21) played valiantly in an attempt to stay unbeaten, but foul trouble struck the Hokies’ interior players, leaving untested players on the court far too often.
Bob Huggins’ A-10 transfers helped carry a team in desperate need of a good outcome. Aaric Murray (La Salle) had 15 points and seven boards, and Juwan Staten (Dayton) scored the winning points for a cobbled-together team preparing for league play in a new conference. The game ball had to go to Kevin Noreen. The 6’10” sophomore scored 14 points and 12 rebounds, both career highs. In fact, Noreen had only scored in double figures once before (12 points against Alcorn State in 2011) and had never approached such a big day on the boards.
Noreen was considered a prime candidate to play the stretch-four position coming out of high school, but his shots never really started falling until tonight’s huge showing against a previously unbeaten team. Noreen’s 250-lb. frame makes him more than able to get after it inside, and he proved tonight that he can stretch the defense with his shooting – he was 2-3 from downtown.
Noreen came off the bench in the big win tonight, but he may be angling for a start in the near future. He’ll have a chance to prove his big day wasn’t a fluke when the Mountaineers travel to Duquesne on Tuesday. After that, a huge game against No. 3 Michigan looms. For the Mountaineers to have any chance the even bigger upset, Noreen will have to look more like the guy who set career highs today than the guy who scored three points in 19 minutes against Marshall last week.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.