WVU finally found some competitive fire, but a taller, faster and more polished Michgan team started off strong and shut down a second ha;f rally to take an 81-66 win in the Winter Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Trey Burke poured in 27 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. added in 25 as Michigan jumped out to an early double-digit lead over West Virginia in the first five minutes of the game. UM led 19-4 before the Mountaineers were able to steady themselves.
The Mountaineers actually had one of their best shooting offensive halves of the entire season in the opening 20 minutes. After falling into the early hole, WVU wound up shooting 54.5% from the field and an even 50% from three-point range. That helped WVU play evenly with Michigan over the final 15 minutes of the first half, but the Mountaineers still trailed the Wolverines by 11 at the half after Hardaway made a great move that led to a layup to finish the first half on a four point run.
Every time it seemed like Michigan would pull away, the Mountaineers would catch the momentum and pull back into the game. Trailing by as many as 17 in the first half, WVU cut the lead to five at 34-29 with just over three minutes to go in the half, before Michigan regained their composure and stretched the lead back to 11.
In the second half, West Virginia went on a couple of runs that sliced the deficit to as few as seven points, but Michigan was able to answer by driving the ball to the basket against a defense unable to contain its guards.
Player of the Game
The Wolverines extended their lead to 18 several times, the last being at 65-47 with 9:06 remaining in the game. It was at that point the Mountaineers slowly started to chip away, finally closing the lead to seven at 71-64 with 4:31 remaining in the ballgame.
From there Michigan was able to capitalize on their possessions while the Mountaineers went cold, scoring only two points the rest of the way on two Gary Browne free throws.
Terry Henderson was simply stellar for WVU, scoring 23 points on seven of 14 shooting overall, including three of nine from three-point range and a perfect six of six from the free throw line to go along with three steals and two rebounds. Juwan Staten chipped in with 12 points and five assists and Eron Harris scored 10 first half points for the Mountaineers.
While WVU rallied to make the game competitive, head coach Bob Huggins was visibly upset with several of his players before, during and after the game. He left Aaric Murray at home, and did not play Matt Humprhey. Jabarie Hinds did not play in the second half Deniz Kilicli played less than one minute in the final half. The big man caught the ire of the coach for his inability to finish at the rim and what appeared to be a lackadaisical effort on loose balls and in transition, leading to extended bench time.
That opened up more playing time for Dominic Rutledge who played a season high 25 minutes for the Mountaineers, pulling down seven rebounds, dishing two assists and blocking at least two shots though he was only credited in the final statistics with one.
Voldymyr Gerun made his first appearance of the regular season with eight mostly solid minutes in relief of Rutledge and Kevin Noreen and scored his first basket, pulled down his first rebound and made a nice assist to Brown that goes uncounted in the stats because he did not convert the shot on the foul. Huggins noted that Gerun "didn't know what he was doing" but said he was pleased with the sophomore's effort.
West Virginia returns to action this Wednesday at 9 pm at the WVU Coliseum against Oakland.