WVU holds off Oakland in 76-71 victory
Published: Thursday, December 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, December 20, 2012 00:12
Junior center Aaric Murray recorded the first double-double of his Mountaineers career and led West Virginia over Oakland 76-71 Wednesday night at the WVU Coliseum.
Murray, who missed the Mountaineers’ last game against No. 3 Michigan for disciplinary reasons, returned in a big way with 12 points and 10 rebounds to go along with five blocks and four assists.
“That was just from playing hard,” Murray said. “I don’t know what my box score says, I’m just out there playing to win. Hopefully if I keep working, God-willing, I’ll just keep getting better.”
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said he was ultimately pleased with Murray’s play, but his praise was also tempered.
“Aaric is getting better,” Huggins said. “He’s got great hands. In the middle of a team that can’t hold on to anything, he gets his hands on it. He doesn’t lose it much.
“Aaric will have a couple of good days and then we will have a real bad day. He mirrors our team in a lot of ways. We get things going and then we have a hard time with prosperity.”
Sophomore guard Juwan Staten scored 11, and freshman guard Terry Henderson and sophomore forward Keaton Miles each scored 10 to round out the Mountaineer’s double-figure scorers.
Staten and Miles combined for a perfect 7 of 7 from the field. Staten was also a pristine 5 for 5 from the free throw line.
Oakland redshirt junior guard Travis Bader, the nation’s leader in 3 point makes, had no problems continuing his current spree Wednesday night against the Mountaineers.
Bader scored a game-high 25 points on 7 of 16 shooting, including 6-12 from behind the arc. Bader has now made at least one three in 32 straight games, but missed a long, potential game-tying three pointer with under 20 seconds to go.
“He’s terrific,” Huggins said of Bader. “He got too good a look.”
After trailing by two heading into the intermission, West Virginia found itself leading by as much as nine at one point in the second half, but Oakland rallied and a Bader three with 2:27 tied the game at 71 a piece.
Sophomore guard Gary Browne, the self-proclaimed “best clutch shooter in the history of Puerto Rico,” answered with a runner on the other end to put the Mountaineers back up by two.
West Virginia forced Oakland into a tough shot on its next possession, and Murray grabbed his tenth rebound before being fouled with just 18 seconds remaining.
Murray made one of two free throws to extend the WVU advantage to 74-71, and Bader missed the potential game-tying three from about six feet behind the three-point line. The Mountaineers sank two more free throws to secure the hard fought victory.
Both teams turned the ball over nine times in the first half, but Oakland scored 14 points off those turnovers compared to just four for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia was also outrebounded 18-13 in the first half, and didn’t pick up its second board of the game until nearly eight minutes had elapsed in the first half. But the Mountaineers hit the glass hard in the second half to only end up being outrebounded 34-32.
West Virginia came into the game shooting under 39 percent on the season, but finally found some consistency from the floor, making just under 53 percent of its field goal attempts Wednesday night.
But Huggins was adamant that it would take more than just making some shots to keep winning heading forward, especially with conference play now just two games away.
“This team is not consistent,” Huggins said. “We struggle with consistent effort. That is what we have to fix. We have to continue to play. We have a little prosperity and we don’t get back and we miss a shot of a free throw and we put our head down and run back and stand behind our guy.”
Oakland has now had second-half leads in five of its eight losses.
West Virginia improved to 92-17 at the Coliseum since 2004.