MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There were a couple of different things that made West Virginia's 89-70 win over Fairmont State in an exhibition game Monday night noteworthy.
One was completely expected and made the evening pretty much agonizing. The other came out of the blue and was a welcome surprise.
The agonizing part, of course, was the game itself and how it was officiated, but anyone surprised by that didn't get the memo. Tighter enforcement of hand-checking violations and the like will make games like this the norm this season. Fairmont committed 40 fouls, West Virginia 23, there were 81 free throws, five Falcons fouled out and the game lasted two hours and 20 minutes.
"I honestly feel bad for the officials,'' West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said, knowing full well those officials are under strict orders to call those fouls. "I can't believe I'm saying that.''
Ah, but then there was the more pleasant surprise where WVU was concerned, which is this: Nathan Adrian just might be able to play. Right away.
In fact, the 6-foot-9, 230-pound freshman forward from Morgantown was the best player on the floor at the start. He scored WVU's first two baskets on 3-pointers and in a sequence lasting about 20 seconds made a 3, blocked a shot on the other end and grabbed a rebound.
Adrian didn't remain West Virginia's best player, of course - Eron Harris finished with 30 points and eight rebounds - but his contribution was nonetheless striking. He'd nearly filled out every category in a box score line just a few minutes in, and by the time it was over he had 21 points, six 3s, three steals and a couple of blocks.
He played, in other words, nothing like a freshman.
"Well, with the number of players we have, we really don't have time to be freshmen,'' Adrian said after a game played in front of 5,375 at the Coliseum. "Right now we're low on players, so I knew I'd get a chance to play a good bit.''
Adrian not only played, he started along with fellow frosh forward Devin Williams and returnees Juwan Staten, Kevin Noreen and Harris. Of course, the starters were chosen pretty much by process of elimination, which wasn't hard after all but seven scholarship players were all but scratched.
West Virginia played the game even more short-handed than expected because Terry Henderson didn't play because of a problem with his shin. Remi Dibo, as expected, pretty much didn't play while recovering from minor knee surgery, although he did get a few minutes at the end in garbage time.
The hope is that both will be able to play Friday night when the regular season begins with a home game against Mount St. Marys. If not it could mean trouble given that only eight players saw action against Fairmont until the game got out of hand. In addition to the seven available scholarship players, freshman Chase Connor, who led the state in scoring last season at Shady Spring, was the only walk-on to see meaningful minutes.
In addition to Harris and Adrian's combined 51 points, Gary Browne scored 18 off the bench and Staten added 13. West Virginia made a solid 12 of 27 3-point attempts, somewhat relieving some shooting concerns after two poor scrimmage performances.
Stevie Browning, a sophomore from Logan, led Fairmont with 23 points.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.
WEST VIRGINIA 89, Fairmont State 70
Player Min FG FT R A P
Brendan Cooper 28 2-7 2-6 7 1 6
Stevie Browning 37 7-17 7-8 8 1 23
Martins Abele 11 2-3 1-3 3 0 5
Ke'Chaun Lewis 13 2-7 3-5 0 1 7
Caleb Davis 30 5-15 2-4 5 0 13
Chase Morgan 19 1-4 0-0 3 1 2