The first four minutes of Saturday night's exhibition were pretty indicative of what would transpire in the remaining 36. The West Virginia Mountaineers opened up the contest with a 19-0 run that was sparked by Nathan Adrian, who scored 11 of the Mountaineers' 19 points and wreaked havoc as the point man in the West Virginia press. Adrian and the fellow Mountaineer starters dominated whenever they were on the floor together, so much in fact, that many would sit for the majority of the second half. In only 15 minutes of play Adrian scored 26 points, grabbed five boards, accounted for five assists and accumulated four steals. Those numbers are impressive no matter what level of competition you're playing but Adrian's production didn't seem surprise Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins.
"Nate has been terrific," Huggins said. "He's understanding of how to play which he's always had and he's healthy for the first time in probably three years. He's playing with a lot of confidence and shooting the ball with a lot of confidence and that's not a surprise because he does it every day. He plays like that every day."
Adrian had a stellar shooting performance, going 10 of 12 from the field including 3-5 from beyond the arc and Huggins believes that a big part of that improvement is because Adrian is finally healthy, which has led to an uptick in confidence.
"We all kind of wondered why he couldn't make a shot as a sophomore," Huggins said. "He didn't really say anything about (his injury) until his senior year. He had a cyst in his wrist. I think guys mature too. It's got to be tougher for a guy from town too because he's still got all of his buddies in town. He has really dedicated himself to being a good player and he puts a bunch of time in the gym."
When asked about his performance tonight, Adrian simply said he was happy to finally compete in a game-like atmosphere because the senior has only been going up against his teammates for the past several weeks.
"It felt good," Adrian said. "We had been practicing for three hours a day for a few weeks now so to finally get out and play against someone else felt good."
And even though Adrian was critical in the Mountaineers' full court press, one that caused 33 turnovers on the night, he feels there is still plenty of room for improvement and felt the unit could have done a better job of executing at times.
"No," Adrian answered when asked about whether or not that's as good as the Mountaineers had ran their press in the past. "We let them get easy inbound passes way too many times."
Although Adrian still sees room for improvement in the Mountaineers' full court press it was certainly effective on the night and aside from Adrian, Jevon Carter was the Mountaineers' best defensive player on the floor. Carter picked up five steals in 22 minutes of action and also looked good on the offensive end, going four of seven from the floor and finishing the night with 11 points and four assists.
Other impressive performances included Lamont West, who hit three 3-pointers and scored 17 on the night (15 of which came in the second half). Esa Ahmad looked more comfortable on the offensive end of the floor, asserting himself more and showing ability to drive to the bucket and make things happen en route to a 14 point performance. Ahmad also went 4-4 from the free throw line, where he didn't shoot particularly well last year and had the game's highlight play when he posterized a Tech defender with a one-handed slam early in the second half. Sagaba Konate looked the best out of the Mountaineer true freshmen, scoring 10 points and pulling in nine boards, but Konate is still very raw on the offensive end. Once he learns post moves and his offensive game catches up with his defensive game he will surely be a force in the Big 12.