West Virginia raises Sweet 16 banner, showcases Esa Ahmad, new point guard roles for first time

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Daxter Miles, Elijah Macon and Tarik Phillip each scored 10 points as the Gold squad routed the Blue 46-24 in West Virginia's basketball debut on Saturday.

In a loose format that most closely resembled an NBA All-Star game, West Virginia opened defense of its Sweet 16 run a season ago by raising the banner, if not the defensive expectations. With officials hesitant to blow the whistle, and the Mountaineers deciding not to employ the press, the scoring came easily in what amounted to a running clock as Gary Browne's Gold team topped the Juwan Staten-led Blue. The Gold team raced to an early lead, then simply coasted in a contest that didn't reveal much more than the team's athleticism and some solid individual play.

WVU started the Debut by introducing the players and coaching staff with Bob Huggins getting the loudest cheers, followed by Devin Williams. It then raised the Sweet 16 banner before Huggins spoke for several minutes.

"Last year was a fun ride, it just didn't last long enough," Huggins said. "We're hell bent on making it last longer. I think these guys re-taught our coaching staff how much fun it is to have guys that care. I look down 40 minutes before practice and guys are out there shooting. Then after three hours of practice, which isn't an easy three hours, guys stay to get shots up."

The starters for Gold were Nathan Adrian, Jaysean Paige, Phillip, Miles and Elijah Macon. Blue starters were Williams, Jevon Carter, Jonathan Holton, Esa Ahmad and Teyvon Myers. Gold jumped to an early lead and, using better ball movement and ability to finish in transition, led 31-14 at the half. The second half clock ran continuously, and Blue never seriously threatened as it missed all seven of its three-pointers.  Williams scored nine points, while Holton added eight. . Gold hit six threes, two from Miles, and assisted on eight of its 18 field goals against just two turnovers. Blue finished with nine turnovers, and shot just 32 percent to Gold's 54.5 as Browne earned a victory dinner from Staten, who repeatedly called timeouts to no avail.

Huggins noted that he couldn't glean much from the game, because he couldn't truly tell what the officials will whitstle in terms of contact. West Virginia scrimmages Temple in a closed session, and Huggins said he was looking forward to that, because it would give an insight as to how WVU might proceed with its press this season.

Among the positives were the floor vision and ball handling of Miles, along with a seemingly more confident Adrian, who didn't hesitate to shoot, but missed a pair of free throws. Ahmad appeared to still be adjussting to the individual speed of the college game, while Macon showcased far better explosion and his trimmed down yet stronger frame. Phillip finished with three assists and eight rebounds in an impressive display, while Myers had three offensive rebounds. There was no slam dunk competition.


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