West Virginia found itself in a tough spot midway through the second half of this year’s edition of the in-state rivalry showdown against Marshall when it brought Juwan Staten out of the game in favor of the Mountaineers’ other senior guard, Gary Browne.
Trailing by eight points and desperately needing a spark to get back in the game, Browne was able to provide just what WVU needed. The player who Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins has called the heartbeat of this West Virginia team was able to provide the leadership and make the big plays it needed to come away with the close victory Sunday.
“Whatever the team needs, that’s what I’m going to do,” Browne said. “I get in the gym every day and that’s the payoff. You can’t cheat the game.”
That was exactly what Huggins said when reflecting on the game and commenting on the solid play of the San Juan, Puerto Rico, native when it mattered the most.
“The game won’t let you cheat it,” the veteran head coach said.
“I will tell you the honest to God’s truth: Gary Browne was in kind of a slump. He has been in the gym ... I just think the basketball gods smile down on and care about people who care about the game like that.”
Sunday was a special night for Browne, who was playing in his final game at the Charleston Civic Center. He wanted to make sure he left the building having made an impact and after coming off the bench to score 10 points while picking up a couple of steals and providing the same type of leadership he has been known to bring to the team throughout his career, Browne was able to do just that.
“I love to win. I was saying through the whole game, this is my last time here in Charleston and it was as special as it was when I was playing in Puerto Rico,” Browne said. “I just wanted to win.”
During his four years as a Mountaineer, Browne has been the type of role player every team would like to have. He’s been a major contributor for West Virginia since he arrived on campus as a freshman, and despite starting just 15 games in his career, has been able to provide a spark using his aggressiveness and willingness to do whatever it takes to win.
Sunday was a great example of that, as Browne did what he needed to do and made several key plays down the stretch. It was Browne’s first time in double figures all season, and he made three key shots down the stretch that gave the Mountaineers a lead when the game continued to be tight in the closing minutes.
“Like Coach Huggs always says, I might not be a great shooter and I might not be a great passer, but I make winning plays,” Browne said after the game. “Ever since I’ve been here freshman year, I’ve been making big plays like that.”