The Mountaineers suffered their first loss of the season, losing the #1 Gonzaga 87-82 in the first game of the Jimmy V Classic. West Virginia came out strong in the first half and rattled the stars of the Bulldogs. Drew Timme looked lost and afraid to take the ball strong to the basket after a few missed shots early. Holding Gonzaga to 34 points in the first half was a huge win for the Mountaineers as they have averaged over 50 points in the first two games. The big storyline that overshadowed the game was the injury to star freshman Jalen Suggs. The injury looked very serious and it seemed to weigh on the minds of the Bulldogs during the last few minutes of the half. On the Mountaineers side, they had surprising contributions from deep as Miles McBride knocked down two threes and Gabe Osabuohien hit the only other three of the half. Sean McNeil seemed to struggle against the Zags speed all game long as he ended 1-6 of three and went 0-4 in the first half. The solid part was the dominating performance from Culver and Tshiebwe as the pulled down 17 rebounds in the first half to give the Mountaineers extra possessions.
The second half was a completely different ball game. Oscar Tshiebwe got three fouls by the under 12 timeout. Culver and Osabuohien each got another foul in that time to quickly put the team in foul trouble. That changed the game as Gonzaga was able to open up the game and get easy transition points. The Mountaineers were still in the game late but a huge momentum changer happened at the 4:35 mark. Taz Sherman had started to heat up and take over on the offensive end for the Mountaineers. He drove to the basket, made the layup, and appeared to get fouled for a three point play. The referee disagreed though as he called a charge on Sherman and the ball went the other way. Kispert followed that up with a three on the next possession. That turned what could have been a one point game into a seven point game. The Mountaineers still had a few chances but a few missed rebounds for Culver kept the game slightly out of reach. West Virginia is definitely dissapointed about not getting the victory but there are a lot of positives to take away for the rest of the season. The Mountaineers now move on to play Georgetown on Sunday. Gonzaga will continue their difficult stretch as they face #2 Baylor on Saturday.
Miles McBride – Deuce’s best part of his game is his ability to hit the pull up jump shot. He was off in that part of the game which made the Mountaineers have to look elsewhere for an easy bucket. He did hit two threes which was a bright spot and finally had a few moments of showing he can be a point guard.
10 points, 5 assists, 3 rebound
Sean McNeil – McNeil took a big hit to the head in the first half but struggled shooting the ball before and after heading to the locker room. The shooting form is there, the confidence is there, the shots just aren’t falling. I like what I see a lot more than some other people in the fan base. He does get abused at times on the defensive end which needs to improve whether he’s making shots or not.
3 points, 0 rebounds, 1 assists
Emmitt Matthews – Matthews continues to show glimpses but it’s not nearly enough for West Virginia to be an elite team. Bridges hasn’t shown enough to get more time yet. He needs to realize his role though and try to get to the basket. Settling for jumpshots is not in his game.
7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Oscar Tshiebwe – This is a tough one to grade for me. Tshiebwe finally looked like himself on the offensive end, getting rebounds, and having a few nice finishes. He was aggressive on the defensive end. He still makes too many mental mistakes. He has to realize when he is in foul trouble and not take stupid fouls. There were some questionable calls on him but he still has to realize how the game is being called and adjust his game.
14 points, 9 rebounds, 0 assists
Derek Culver – The first game of the season was a rough one for Culver but since then, he has been dominant in the last three games. This one was probably his best yet. He has learned to slow down on offense and has almost perfected the left hand hook shot. He also continued to be a thorn in the side of the bigs on opponent’s teams. Culver is the leader and star of this team.
18 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists
Taz Sherman – Taz kept the Mountaineers in the game for a stretch in the second half. He should have been going to the line to shoot a free throw to make it a one point game. If Huggins wants to switch things up, I wouldn’t mind playing small and inserting him in the starting lineup for Emmitt Matthews.
12 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists
Jalen Bridges – Bridges hasn’t shown much so far in his first few games of his career. He competes on the defensive end but can’t get going on the offensive side.
0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists
Isaiah Cottrell – We’ve heard a lot about the expectations of Isaiah Cottrell being high. He finally showed that he can step up when guys get into foul trouble. He can stretch the floor and open things up for the other bigs. The future is bright after the departure of Culver and Tshiebwe.
6 points, 1 rebound, 1 assists
Gabe Osabuohien – Gabe is going to continue getting high grades but he even gets a bump in this game. He did everything asked of him and even contributed with a three and 10 points overall. I think moving forward, more lineups that pair Gabe with either Culver or Tshiebwe and Cottrell with the other could help create more on offense.
10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assist
Jordan McCabe – McCabe should not be getting minutes right now but the problem is there isn’t another point guard. He keeps turning the ball over and gave the Zags too many free buckets. He also continues to struggle shooting as he is now 0-5.
2 points, 0 assists, 1 rebounds
Kedrian Johnson – Johnson didn’t get many minutes but he didn’t look as bad as what he did in the first few games.
0 points, 0 rebound, 1 assists