Darris' Day Turns To Nichols' Night

West Virginia improved to 9-1 on the season with a 90-60 win over Radford, thanks in no small part to one of Virginia's own. The City of Radford proclaimed Thursday to be "Darris Nichols Day". When day turned to night, the native son did all he could to keep the celebration going.

It certainly did, and then some.

Playing back in his hometown, Nichols scored a career-high 23 points, dished out eight assists, blocked three shots and did not commit a turnover to lead the Mountaineers (9-1).

"He is a wonderful kid, a wonderful young man," said first-year Radford coach Brad Greenberg. "He carries himself the right way and has had a good career at West Virginia. There are a lot of people in this community that are very fond of him and like him and his family, and I think it is great for him to play in his hometown."

Maybe all Nichols needed to bust out of his recent shooting slump was some good old fashioned home cooking. West Virginia's senior leader was 7-11 from the field, with all seven makes coming from behind the three-point arc.

"I tried to treat it as any other game," said Nichols. "I think it was a little bit of an added incentive to be playing in front of my hometown. As the season goes on, I'm just starting to get more comfortable with what Coach Huggins wants from me, and what the team expects from me."

Nichols and starting backcourt mate Alex Ruoff proved to be simply too much for the home standing Highlanders. With Greenberg throwing every zone in the book at Bob Huggins, Nichols and Ruoff combined to make 12 three-pointers to pace the Mountaineers. West Virginia, no longer known across the nation as Beilein's Bombers, bombed away anyways. The Mountaineers were 8-18 in the first half from downtown, and finished a blistering 18-35 from downtown for the game.

"West Virginia's always been known to hit a lot of 3s," said Radford point guard Amir Johnson. "Tonight, they did a good job of making those. They shot well. They shot really well tonight."

In the second half, with the three-point barrage still holding strong, the Mountaineers got more physical with the pesky Highlanders, who arguably out-hustled Bob Huggins's team in the first half. Though Radford finished with more rebounds than the Blue and Gold (39-35) Huggins was very pleased with the way his team defended RU, forcing 15 turnovers which led to 24 Mountaineer points.

"We haven't guarded very hard the past three games," said Huggins. "Its effort related, and the way that we play defense you have to have five guys playing hard all the time, trying to do the same things. If you let one guy relieve his pressure, then why should the other guys play that hard?"

Offensively, it was a complete team effort. With Nichols leading the way, the Mountaineers dished out 24 assists on 31 made shots. Overall, West Virginia shot an even 47 percent from the field, in large part due to the white-hot effort from outside. Playing their first true road game of the Bob Huggins era, the Mountaineers outscored Radford by 21 points in the second half to quiet the crowd, roughly 40 percent of which was made up of gold-clad fans.

RU came into the game with nothing to lose, and held a 7-0 lead before Nichols scored West Virginia's first points at the 16:10 mark of the first half. The Highlanders would not surrender their advantage until nearly eight minutes later, and changed leads with the Mountaineers five times in the first half of play.

"The only people who didn't think they were going to come out and play with that type of enthusiasm was probably a few of our guys," said Huggins. "It was something that I'm sure they've looked forward to. I thought they played really hard."

However, the depth of West Virginia's Big East talent ultimately proved too strong for Greenberg – the former General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers – and Radford. Da'Sean Butler, held scoreless in the first half battling foul trouble, scored 14 second half, including his own personal 8-0 run during one second half stretch as the Mountaineers pulled away. Sophomore point guard Joe Mazzulla added 10 points and five assists, while freshman John Flowers also scored 10 to lead a Mountaineer bench effort responsible for 26 points.

Radford (4-9) was led by Johnson's 16 points and 11 assists, all but one of his team's total. Guard Kenny Thomas and forward Joey Lynch-Flohr added 16 and 12 points, respectively.

"I think we are getting better, but the score doesn't always indicate it," said first-year head coach Greenberg. "We played a couple of very tough teams in the last week, but I think they are growing and I think these guys are growing. I always try to take something positive out of games, and I think we can do that tonight."

The Mountaineers will be in action again Saturday afternoon in Buffalo at the HSBC Arena as they take on Canisius. Huggins will be going for career win No. 600.

"That just means I am getting older," he quipped.


It was a big night all-around for the Nichols family. In addition to Darris's homecoming, complete with a pregame ceremony and presentation of a framed collage which included the city's proclamation, older brother Shane had a big hand in leading his Wofford Terriers to an upset win over Purdue. The elder Nichols hit a three to tie the Boilermakers with less than a minute to go, and made a driving layup that ultimately put the Terriers ahead for good in West Lafayette.

WVU - Radford Box Score

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