Freshmen Provide Quality Minutes in WVU Loss - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Freshmen Provide Quality Minutes in WVU Loss

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. -

West Virginia's freshmen did their part against the No. 3 team in the country to show that youth isn't always a bad thing.

Trailing 19-4, the Mountaineers needed a spark and Coach Bob Huggins had shown that he didn't really mind where it came from with the way he was sending players from his bench into the game.

The two who seemed to get the message were also the only scholarship freshmen on the roster. Terry Henderson and Eron Harris showed a lack of fear to step up and make shots in leading a charging comeback that briefly turned a laughable outing into a bit of a thriller.

Michigan had built its lead on four quick 3-pointers, but West Virginia had failed to answer with one of its own until Harris did so to pull within 12.

The guard pulled up and hit each of his first three field goal attempts, finishing the half with eight points.

In one stretch, the two freshmen combined to score 12-straight as the Mountaineers climbed out of their deficit to come within five and the new life they had given the team showed in the confidence and the excitement with which WVU came together in huddles.

"We just picked up the intensity," Henderson said. "We wanted to speed them up. We started to press in the second half, sped them up a little bit, got a couple easy baskets and that was our game plan. We needed to do something different."

But a pair of rookies can only do so much and the work they put in would eventually collapse under shooting that could not keep up its torrid pace from much of the first half.

"It changes the game plan totally because they you start to chase," Harris said of WVU getting down big early on. "It starts to become a chasing game and you don't want that. You want to be in the game the whole game and we did get back in the game. We've just got to find a way to get over the top."

What was once an operation connecting on 70 percent of its shots fell to 39 percent by the end of the game as West Virginia simply could not go stride for stride with a Wolverines squad that extended its unbeaten streak to 11.

Henderson remained that bright spot well into the second half and put in two key baskets from behind the arc as he led a late rally. Aside from one opportunity for an open jumper that he passed on with the team down nine, he displayed poise and a willingness – no, a desire – to shoot the big shot.

He finished the game with more minutes played (36) and more points (23) than any of his teammates.

Huggins was searching for answers throughout the matchup and rarely found them, but the effort and execution he got from his youngsters was what kept the team from falling apart in the face of adversity and embarrassment.

"No matter what year we are, we're still a team and we've got certain weapons and we're a pretty deep team," Harris said. "A lot of guys can get in the game and contribute. We've just got to, as the year goes on, just learn how to keep that combination together to win."

The backcourt is where West Virginia found its production. The blue-clad guards poured in 57 of the 66 total points as the front court could only hit on 3-of-13 shots. The Mountaineers were outscored 36-14 in the paint.

"I thought we put some guys in today that competed and I thought we took some guys out that wouldn't," said Huggins. "I'm sick of watching guys stand around. I'm sick of watching guys not compete. I'm sick of guys missing shot after shot after shot but never coming early, never staying late."

The freshmen show signs of their youth, sometimes enough in this one to get the hook and a stern talking to as they approached the bench, but they are also proving their worth as valuable commodities on a team that has struggled to get the ball in the basket all season.

"That was big for us for them to make shots because now we can kind of rely on them," said sophomore guard Juwan Staten. "They've kind of stepped up in big games, so I think that's become something they do. They step up and make shots and that's big for us."

WVU won't want to rely on a Henderson and Harris combination, but knowing what they are capable of against one of the country's best teams can go a long way in the confidence each will have to perform every chance they get going forward.

"Individually, I just try to go out there and play hard, try to make shots, because that's what I'm here for," said Henderson. "I'm here to make shots and make plays and also defend and I think I've been getting better on my defense."

With a 4-5 start to the season, it has become clear that Huggins will take a spark wherever he can get it, and these two freshmen may be emerging as just that for the Mountaineers.

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