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Murray Returns with Big Night for Mountaineers

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MORGANTOWN -

Aaric Murray had a far better view of West Virginia's basketball team on Wednesday than he had Saturday night in Brooklyn.

After failing to travel with the Mountaineers and watching his teammates fall to No. 3 Michigan, the 6-foot-10 center did make the trip to Morgantown to help get the home team back on track with a 76-71 win over Oakland.

"I don't want to talk bad about my teammates, but I definitely wish I could have been there to help them," Murray said Wednesday night about the game at Barclays Center. "But I don't know if it would have been any different if I was there or if I wasn't."

WVU head coach Bob Huggins did not mince his words when he described the situation that led to his big man remaining in front of a television set rather than guarding a Wolverine. He said if Murray didn't "do right," he would miss future games.

Murray says he heard the message loud and clear.

"Huggs doesn't care how good you are, he'll go lose with a walk-on before he lets you disrespect him and play him," Murray said.

This is no walk-on. His size and his skill set surpass that of any player who failed to warrant a scholarship. When he is fully invested in the game, he is a valuable asset to Coach Huggins and he showed that in his effort against the Golden Grizzlies.

For the second time this season, Murray did not start a game in which he played. In the 24 minutes that he did play, though, he made his presence known in so many ways.

He finished the game with 12 points, 10 rebounds, five blocked shots and four assists, a well-rounded outing when his team needed someone to step up and overcome a second half deficit that reached seven.

"Aaric will have a couple of good days and then he will have a real bad day," Huggins said after the win. "He mirrors our team in a lot of ways. We get things going and then we have a hard time with prosperity. Aaric is getting better."

Murray says he came into this game knowing that he had to play harder than what he had in the past. He needed to prove himself worthy of even a single minute, much less 20-plus he ultimately spent on the court.

Though he asked that he not have to dwell on what left him out of the Michigan loss, he did say that he knew he had to show something in practice and in a game environment to help regain his coaches' trust.

"I'm just going to make sure I'm not late to anything, I'm not missing anything and I'm being respectful off the court and doing what I've got to do and being a West Virginia basketball player," Murray said.

With that in mind, he left the past where it was and focused on the 40 minutes ahead of him and from the point when he got off of the bench four minutes into the game until he left the court victorious, he put out the effort his teammates and coaches hope to see on a nightly basis.

"Just basically playing hard, getting rebounds and guarding my man and trying to keep him from scoring," Murray said of his night.

Those things worked for him and his imprint on the game was obvious as he started the second half in place of an ineffective Deniz Kilicli. As long as he continues to perform, he will continue to get his opportunities.

"He is listening and he is trying to do what you ask him to do," said Huggins. "I'll tell you what he does for us, he has got great hands. In the middle of a team that can't hold on to anything, he gets his hands on it and he doesn't lose it much."

Murray was asked if he played as well-rounded of a game as he could hope for with the way his numbers showed up across the box score, but he was not about to let his own personal bar be set just 10 games into the season.

"I doubt it. That was just from playing hard," he said. "I don't know what my box score is, I was just out there playing to win. Hopefully if I keep working, God willing, I'll just keep getting better, have better games."

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