It wasn’t pretty but the Mountaineers opened their season with a victory. The Mountaineers opened the Bad Boy Mower Crossover Classic with a 79-71 win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. With no preseason scrimmages and multiple opponents to prepare for, I did not expect the this team to come out and put up a blowout performance. The Jackrabbits create matchup problems for how WVU wants to play defensively and it showed for the whole 40 minutes. South Dakota State is also very well coaches so any run the Mountaineers tried to go on, they had an answer.
The part that concerns me is this team doesn’t know what it’s identity is. We’ve heard all offseason that the shooting will be much improved from last year. That didn’t show up in game one but they got a lot of open looks. Maybe those start falling. The frustrating part is falling in to the trap and shooting far too many of those deep shots. You have one of the best front courts in the country. Get to the basket, feed them, and let the game work from inside to out.
The bigs struggled as Tshiebwe got into foul trouble and even when he was in the game, couldn’t get much going. Culver looked disinterested which can’t happen again today. There were far too many possessions where he was jogging back and didn’t show the physical, hounding style of play we saw for much of last year. This team has a lot to fix but we’ll take a win and hope for better today against VCU.
Miles McBride – Deuce helped this team get through some big scoring droughts. The mid range game is deadly. That needs to be more of the offense whether it be him creating on his own or in the pick and roll game. One area I would like to see him improve is getting other players involved. He still needs to develop into a point guard or be left at the two spot if he can’t create for other players.
21 points, 3 assists, 1 rebound
Sean McNeil – A lot of fans will get on McNeil for missing a lot of threes. He’s on this team to make those shots. If he’s open, he has to shoot it. There will be games this season where he shoots the same number of threes, but makes six or seven. He can benefit greatly if McBride turns in to more of a point guard and get him open with drive and kicks.
16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists
Emmitt Matthews – Matthews is one of the players that still needs to figure out what his identity is. With his length, he should be able to create and get to the rim for more easier baskets. Too often he is settling for jumpshots. That isn’t his game. If the Mountaineers want to make a deep run, he needs to get back to the player he was at the beginning of last year.
7 points, 2 rebounds, 0 assists
Oscar Tshiebwe – Tshiebwe got two quick fouls, something that still needs cleaned up in his game. When he was in the game, he had flashes of good plays but for most of it just looked lost. Not the way fans expected him to start out after an impressive freshman season.
7 points, 3 rebounds, 0 assists
Derek Culver – The one positive I can say is Culver was once again dominant on the boards. Outside of that, he did not look ready to play. Far too often, he did not seem to be at full speed. One area that was good to see, was the chemistry when Tshiebwe and Culver were on the floor at the same time. Culver made some nice passes from both the high post and the block. Overall, the laziness outweighs the stat line.
7 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists
Taz Sherman – Taz is exactly what every team needs. A spark off the bench that can just go get his own bucket. He brings a level of energy when he is on the floor that seems to spark everyone else. He has also developed into a good defender which the Mountaineers will need to replace Harler and Haley.
14 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists
Jalen Bridges – I was hoping for a bigger first game from the freshman but it is a long season. He did show glimpses of good defense. I’m going to keep him with a C because I just didn’t get a good enough look to draw a conclusion.
0 points, 2 rebounds, 0 assists
Isaiah Cottrell – Much like Bridges, Cottrell did not quite have the opening performance he was looking for. Cottrell looked a little lost when he got the ball and chucked up some bad shots. They say he has the range but I would have liked to see him get down low and try to work a little more in the post in his first game. Both these players will play major roles for years to come. Don’t let the first game get you discouraged.
2 points, 1 rebound, 0 assists
Gabe Osabuohien – Gabe showed up like he always does. He won’t fill up a stat sheet but he led the team with three steals in twenty minutes of play. You never have to worry if he is ready to play.
3 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist
Jordan McCabe – I missed the memo on McCabe no longer starting. He only saw the court for eleven minutes and shot 0-4 from three. Hopefully he can see some more time but it was very apparent that Huggs favors other guards over his most experienced player.
0 points, 1 assists, 0 rebounds
Kedrian Johnson – Not enough to really grade him but you can’t come in your first game and throw up an airball. Let the game come to you.
0 points, 1 rebound, 0 assists