THE CIVIC CENTER had not been kind to West Virginia University forward Nathan Adrian.
Back on March 13, Adrian was playing for Morgantown High when his Mohigan team visited the arena for a state tournament game against South Charleston. MHS lost. And Adrian, the state's most celebrated high school player because of his pact with WVU, played poorly.
He did finish with 17 rebounds and 17 points, but the latter was on 6-of-20 (30 percent) shooting. He was 1-of-6 from beyond the 3-point arc. He missed at least five bunnies.
"Bad," Adrian said at the time. "There's no way I can shoot 6-of-20 and expect [MHS] to win."
"I remember missing a lot of shots," said the forward on Sunday. "I should have played better."
Against William & Mary, Adrian did. The true freshman connected on 6-of-7 shots from the floor and 4-of-5 from beyond the 3-point arc. He had 16 points along with a block, a steal and a rebound in 15 minutes of work.
Back on Dec. 14, when WVU played Marshall at the Civic Center, Adrian played but four minutes. All he had to show for it: a turnover.
"This is the first time I've ever played good here," Adrian said Sunday. "It feels good."
One has to take into account WVU's relatively weak Sunday opponent. (The Tribe did defeat Rutgers earlier in the year, but the Mountaineers' 82-45 rout accurately described the game.) Still, Adrian's play was a good sign as his team heads into Big 12 play.
"We wanted [Adrian] to be more assertive," said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. "At the start of the year, he was more assertive. Then he became passive.
"It might have had something to do with the competition, but he ought to be able to rebound and hit open shots. Today he shot extremely well."
The kid played extremely well. In the first half, he had a nice long-armed tip-in. In the second half, it was as if he were playing H-O-R-S-E. First, he connected on a trey from the left corner to make the score 58-30. When William & Mary's Brandon Britt converted in an attempt to keep the Tribe close, Adrian answered. Kevin Noreen gave him a nice baseline feed into the right corner. Three points.
Shortly thereafter, Adrian lifted the 8,885 in attendance with a trey as the shot clock was expiring. Finally, he seemed to be showing off with three more from the top of the key. All that was left was one from the left wing.