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WVU has a new hoops hero, and it's pronounced air bare

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

Despite making just one of 10 shots from 3-point range in West Virginia's first three games, Mountaineer coach John Beilein insisted that freshman guard Johannes Herber could indeed hit from long range.

Herber proved his coach right Tuesday night at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum, making two of three treys, including the go-ahead shot with just :37 to play in WVU's astounding, 68-66 victory over No. 8 Florida.

Herber's clutch bucket was no surprise to him.

"It was just a shot," he said. "Yeah, a very big shot, but one I'm confident I can make.

"I've been through shooting slumps before. I know I just have to keep shooting."

Herber, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound native of Germany, scored 11 points and handed out three assists in the victory, that improved WVU's record to 3-1.

"This is a big step forward for us," Herber said. "To beat a team of this caliber is great for a young team like us."

Beilein admitted he didn't want Herber to take the final-minute shot.

"I was yelling at him to run through the offense one more time and maybe get Drew (Schifino) the ball coming through the lane," Beilein said. "Thank God he didn't listen to me."

STRONG OFF THE BENCH: Most observers figured Florida's depth and pressure would wear down the Mountaineers.

But WVU's bench outscored the Gators' 19-7.

Of course, it helps when two of your more experienced and talented players are contributing in that manner.

Senior center Chaz Briggs scored eight points, giving the Mountaineers some semblance of a presence in the paint. Senior Josh Yeager hit two big baskets during WVU's second half rally after playing just two minutes in the first half.

"You have to give those two seniors a lot of credit," Beilein said. "To go through what they've gone through here, and now to be coming off the bench, says a lot about their character."

Yeager says putting team first is the key.

"Everybody on this team is willing to do what the coaches want, Chaz and myself included," Yeager said. "You have to be ready to step up when you're number is called."

Yeager called the exciting victory the biggest win in his career.

"We beat Syracuse at the Coliseum a couple of years ago, but I think this tops that because of the situation," Yeager said. "Our freshmen really stepped it up tonight.

"This is a step in the right direction, but I don't think we've turned it around quite yet."

WORN OUT: Freshman point guard Jarmon Durisseau-Collins logged 39 minutes of action during Tuesday's contest.

His only break came during the middle of the second half when fellow freshman Nick Patella of Elkins replaced him and then stayed in the game awhile longer.

Collins scored just one point, but it was an important one. His free throw with :19 to lay gave WVU a two-point lead. Amazingly, the 5-10 Collins led WVU with six rebounds. He also dished off a team-high five assists.

"I was totally drained at that point (when Patella came in for him)," Collins said. "I needed to rest for a minute.

"Nick came in and immediately got a rebound and an assist and helped us attack their press better. He did a great job while he was in there."

Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at gtalkington@exponent-telegram.com