Sometimes you’ve got your head down writing or typing when you’re listening to something or someone and you get the words, but not the context.
Knowing what we know now — which is that Terry Henderson has quite a bug and that it’s going to keep him not only out of a second straight game, but away from the team for a second straight game … and maybe longer — what happened following the first game against Iowa State is finally ringing in my ears.
“He could have said, ‘I was sick.’ He didn’t. He just said, ‘This one’s on me. I’ve got to be able to play through it.’ ”
Was Henderson sick for the Kansas game? Because, man, Henderson looked bad that game. I said he looked beat. Whatever the case, whatever the adjective, he was not himself and, near as I can tell, no ink has been given to the possibility, or maybe now the fact, that he was sick when he was 0-for-3 against the Jayhawks.
And has what ailed him that day in Lawrence followed him ever since? Did a diagnosis arrive just a few days ago?
I think those are a pretty interesting questions, though certainly secondary to “When will Henderson return to the lineup?” We know he’s been ill for a while, but we don’t now for how much longer WVU expects to be without it’s third-leading scorer during the final push in a conference that really requires scorers.
What I have to say about him and his role tonight is the same as it was Saturday. WVU needs Henderson. It can’t shorten the bench. It can’t expect to match up with Iowa State and its pace for 40 minutes and rely on just Juwan Staten and Eron Harris doing all the scoring in the backcourt or with three-guard lineups with Gary Browne, which then removes a link to other plans that might involve, or necessitate, getting Staten and/or Harris on the bench.
Henderson was hot early in the home win against Iowa State — I thought he faded, but, whatever, it was a blowout that didn’t need 30-plus points from him — and what he did made life easier on Staten and Harris and Remi Dibo, who had a career night that I don’t think you can expect without some assistance from others to clear the way first.
Given what Texas and Baylor have done in succession, it stands to reason the Cyclones are going to (try to) take away Harris and Staten and roll the dice on Dibo and Nathan Adrian. I don’t think Iowa State has the size or the length the Longhorns and Bears posses, so I’m not sure it comes so easily, but whether Staten and Harris succeed or not is somewhat irrelevant. In either case, they’ll have to get Adrian and Dibo involved.
If those two start writing checks, then Iowa State will adjust, but not in such a dramatic manner that will leave Staten or Harris unaccounted for and unchecked. For the entirety of the season, Dibo and Adrian have been front runners. They get open shots because of the attention given to others, but they also shoot and score better when WVU is in the lead and confidence is high (Dibo did a lot of damage against Iowa State after WVU ran away, as an example). We really haven’t seen one or both carry the weight of the offense, or at least provide a leg to stand on and walk a mile.
WVU’s perpetual struggle this season has been finding a third scoring option, be it a player or a tactic. Losing Henderson and then managing all the subsequent side effects that absence causes, makes that struggle no easier. And for all we know, WVU may have more time than it cares to encounter to get a plan together.
And that’s just the offensive problem. Henderson is an above average defender who’d turned into a pretty good help side defender and rebounder. WVU isn’t as good in man-to-man without Henderson, but I don’t think WVU and its otherwise bad defense is going to win with man tonight. I think WVU is going to play a lot of zone and try, again, to keep the Cyclones from shooting 3s. It worked pretty well last time.
They’ll live with the drives and the jumpers and with DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang posting up and stringing passes and cuts together for inside shots. The Mountaineers don’t want and can’t afford to see Iowa State bombing away from 3-point range. The crowd will turn the game in a hurry. Whether it’s the matchup zone or the 1-3-1 or even the tricky 1-2-2 trap, I think you’re going to see some sort of passive-aggressive chaos from the Mountaineers.
That’s all a part of the magic, so to speak, at the Hilton Coliseum tonight. How can WVU make up for the disappearance of Henderson? What tricks will the Mountaineers pull to defend better than they have the past two games, but honestly, for most of the season?
But Iowa State is now without magic wands to wave. No matter what or where, 102 points is 102 points and I promise you the Mountaineers are confident they can do that, or at least something similar, once again. The Cyclones have blemishes they have to mask there, and maybe on offense, too. WVU’s plan last time worked and it’s up to them to pull something out of their hats to make it different this time.
And finally, the three men in charge of the officiating have their work cut out for them, too, in case anyone has any ideas about revisiting what happened 16 days ago. I’m confident they’ve been briefed on the whos and the whats from the first game, so let’s keep an eye on early conferences and maybe even tight whistles.
Flagrant 3 coming up. Let’s blog.