LAKE BUENA VISTA — West Virginia opened up the Old Spice Classic basketball tournament at ESPN's Wide World of Sports on Thursday with a bit of a Thanksgiving Day massacre, rolling little Marist College of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 87-44.
West Virginia, which suffered a similar sort of massacre itself in getting trounced by No. 17 Gonzaga in its season opener on the road at Spokane, Wash., 10 days ago, has another shot at the Zags should both teams continue the same course toward Sunday's Old Spice title game.
West Virginia (1-1) will face Davidson (2-2) in one semifinal game at 12:30 p.m., Friday. Davidson finally pulled away to defeat Vanderbilt in Thursday's other early game 75-62.
In Thursday's night-time doubleheader, No. 17 Gonzaga fought off a pesky Clemson squad 57-49, and Oklahoma jumped out to a 22-6 lead and fought off a few UTEP surges to keep the Miners at bay. UTEP got within four late, but OU pulled it out 68-61. The Sooners will face Gonzaga in Friday's other semifinal at 7:30 p.m. All games are on ESPN2.
As for seeing Gonzaga (4-0) again, Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins didn't sound as if that was necessarily his idea of a good time.
"Want me to tell you the truth? When I was growing up, if somebody beat my [behind], they'd beat my [behind] the next day and then the next day and then the next day," Huggins said. "We gotta worry about tomorrow."
It was difficult to see what kind of improvement his team had made since the Gonzaga rout during the Mountaineers game against an obviously out-manned Marist (1-3) squad, but Huggins did see things with which he was pleased.
"Little bit of difference in the caliber of opponent," Huggins said, "but we're better. We passed the ball better and we got the ball reversed a lot better and I thought our on-the-ball pressure was a lot better.
"We're playing so many guys that it takes a little while. We need to play some games. We'll play these three and then go home and play a couple and I think, by then, we can get everything sorted out."
West Virginia was able to rotate plenty of players on Thursday, and four reserve players got into double digits, including usual starter Aaric Murray, who had 10 points despite not playing in the first half. Murray overslept and was late to a team practice, so he sat out the first 20 minutes.
"He showed up late, and we just don't do that," Huggins said of Murray.
Freshman Eron Harris led the way with 15 points off the bench on 7-of-8 shooting, while fellow freshman Terry Henderson had 14 points and six rebounds, Jabarie Hinds had 11 points and Matt Humphrey added 10. WVU, led by Deniz Kilicli's seven rebounds, had a 41-31 advantage on the boards, as well.
"Terry's played well. Terry is very quickly working his way into the rotation. As everybody can see, Eron's a talented guy. He can do some things," Huggins said of his two true freshmen. "It's just a matter of them understanding a little bit better what needs to go on."
Huggins said the 10-day layoff since the blowout loss to Gonzaga was useful in working on some things.
"It wasn't bad for us. Don't get me wrong, it kills me to get beat like that, but we learned a lot of things," Huggins said. "I think they [his players] learned a lot of things coming back … that they had a lot of things to fix."
Marist, a member of the host Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the annual host conference for the sixth year tournament, was led by Isaiah Morton's 10 points and Adam Kemp had nine rebounds.
Davidson 75, Vanderbilt 62
Davidson's ball movement allowed the Wildcats good looks at the basket all day against Vandy. The Wildcats shot 50 percent for the game, including 43 percent from 3-point range (9-for-21). De'Mon Brooks led the way with 19 points and Nik Cochran, who hit all four of his 3-point attempts, and Jake Cohen added 14 apiece. Vandy's Kedren Johnson led all players with 28 points, hitting 4-of-6 3-pointers.
Davidson coach Bob McKillop said he was concerned about his match-up problems underneath with West Virignia's big men in Friday's game.
“They are a Big 12 team who is going to be physical, athletic. Historically they’re as tough and well schooled as we’re going to face," McKillop said. "They rebound ferociously. We’ll probably be doing rebounding drills in the hallway at the hotel tonight just in preparation.”
Oklahoma 68, UTEP 61
Oklahoma (3-0), the other Big 12 team in the tourney, got 16 points from Romero Osby despite a myriad of defenses thrown at him by UTEP (1-2) and OU coach Lon Kruger said he thought his team handled the Miners' defense fairly well. Osby managed 16 points and OU's ball movement was key to getting good looks for him. Osby hit 6-of-10 floor shots.
"It's a good experience for ourselves because it's one of those things that's hard to practice against," Kruger said of UTEP's defensive schemes for Osby. The Miners used a box-and-one and a triangle-and-two for potions of the game. "UTEP does a lot of it so they do it pretty well. So to see that in an early-season game gives us some experience that we'll benefit from later."
The Sooners looked like they were going to have an easy time of it in jumping out to the early 16-point lead, but Clemson did not go away. The Tigers were within 64-60 with 1:44 left. OU, however, got a 3-pointer from Steven Pledger and that was enough to seal it.
"We just couldn't get a shot down there for awhile," Kruger said. "They're a tough ball club and they hung in there until the end, but we'll learn from it."
Gonzaga 57, Clemson 49
The way Clemson (2-1) started things off against Gonzaga, the only ranked team in the tourney, let the Zags know the Tigers meant business. Gonzaga 7-footer Kelly Olynyk, who was suspended for the first three games by the university after violating the student code of conduct, had two straight shots swatted back in his face by Clemson's K.J. McDaniel to start the game and the momentum carried through to halftime.
The Tigers trailed only once in the first half, leading 24-23 at the break and were ahead by as much as six at one point.
"Disappointing loss because of how hard we played and our guys did a really good job of getting the tempo we wanted," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "Our guys were ready to play and we got off to a good start to give us some confidence."
Olynyk, a redshirt last year seeing his first action since 2011, certainly noticed.
"It was a little different," Olynyk said. "It clicked to me they're actually real athletes. ... good, high-level athletes, and the coaches drilled it but sometimes film doesn't do it justice. It was kind of an awakening, but it was good for me and I tried to just pick it up from there."
Olynyk and Elias Harris led the Zags with 13 points each.
Clemson was causing havoc on defense and hitting its shots on the other end in the first half. But, as Brownell pointed out, his squad shot worse in the second half despite better looks at the basket as shots just stopped falling. Clemson hit 28 percent from the field in the second half.
"The funny thing is we shot worse in the second [half], when I thought our shots were better," Brownell said. "It's mind-boggling ... but that's basketball."
Once Gonzaga got rolling, back-up point guard David Stockton, the son of Hall of Famer John Stockton, started finding open players. Stockton had a career-high seven assists and the junior hit a stretch during an 18-6 second-half run where he had five dishes and Gonzaga pulled away.
"The real key to the game was Stockton in the second half," Brownell said.
"He's a phenomenal pocket passer ... the little pockets that come open on ball-screen-and-rolls or he'll come off something and maybe there's a window there and there aren't many people who can hit those things, and he can really, really hit them," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of Stockton. "He's very adept and he's not afraid. His play probably won us the game tonight."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times