Wow we have a lot to talk about here. What a way to spend your Monday night. For those that stayed up, you were gifted an incredible comeback and Mountaineer victory with a final score of 87-84. West Virginia had no answer for the Cowboys in the first half trailing by 10 and no sign of life coming from anyone on the Mountaineer bench. Life without Oscar Tshiebwe is still a learning process as the team has had to change to a four guard lineup on the fly. This has especially affected them on the defensive end with wide open lanes to the bucket at times. As much as I wanted to blame the offense for the poor first half, they still did enough to put up 35 points. That should be good enough for them to win games under Huggins. Offensive rebounding is still where this team excels even without Tshiebwe, who was in the top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage. The defense was allowing too many open shots including step in jumpers, open corner threes, and drives to the basket. Oklahoma State took advantage of all the holes, shooting 53% from the field and got to the line making ten.
The teams came out of the locker room and much was the same for the first nine minutes. Every time West Virginia looked they might turn a corner after a big shot, Oklahoma State answered on the other end. Rondell Walker hit two free throws with 11:15 to go to make it a 19 point lead. The game changed after Huggins found possibly his best lineup with the new system. The lineup consisted of Deuce, Kedrian Johnson, Taz, Matthews, and Culver on the back end. This squad led to an 11-0 run that was only ended by a questionable foul call. The run was led by the guards being able to create pressure and some turnovers that wasn’t evident in the first half. Johnson is a JUCO guy that always takes time to develop under Huggins. But he has reached the point that he has to get more minutes. He reminds me of a slightly better version of Teyvon Myers. Very fiesty, quick, long arms for a guard and can get to the bucket and score in bunches. One thing that hampered Oklahoma State down the stretch was foul trouble, none more important than Cade Cunningham. He is an electric freshman that was a huge mismatch as a 6’8 guy that can dribble, get to the basket, and shoot a little on the outside. We didn’t see much from Gabe Osabuohien for the first 35 minutes of the game but he finished by shutting down Cunningham. That was a key sequence in the game that was paired with Miles McBride going full beast mode to take the lead.
Things don’t get any easier as the Mountaineers have the rest of the week to prepare for Texas who just beat Kansas in Lawrence over the weekend. That game will tip off at 1:30 in the Coliseum on ESPN.
Miles McBride – Icy. That’s the best way to describe Deuce’s second half. The backcourt of McBride and Johnson changed the game. McBride’s shooting is so improved from last year that I would rather him shoot from three instead of the mid range jumper. I didn’t know if I would ever be able to say that. He loses a little bit here because of his first half. He was in foul trouble but still managed to get three turnovers. The Cowboys did a good job speeding him up and making it difficult for him to get going with the zone.
21 points, 5 assists, 4 rebound
Sean McNeil – I have been McNeil’s biggest supporter, waiting for him to get out of this funk. Earlier in the year, he was doing other things whether it was making mid range shots or playing good defense. Missed 3’s are now affecting those other sides so he will most likely see his minutes reduced as other players are stepping up. For this team to make a run in March, they still need him to figure it out to add another dimension to this offense.
4 points, 2 assists, 4 rebounds
Emmitt Matthews – Emmitt is still shooting a few more threes than I would like him to but he made a few in the last couple games so I’ll allow it. He has figured out that he has to be a big part of crashing the glass and seems to help this team out by getting a few big dunks to get the rest of the squad pumped up. His defense is also going to be huge as his long body frame will be important to guard the stretch 3’s or 4’s that they’ll face in the Big 12. It’s up to Matthews, Bridges, and Gabe to guard those types of guys.
6 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound
Jalen Bridges – Bridges seemed to be the one that John Higgins picked out before the game to watch closely. He was called for a few touchy fouls and didn’t see much time in this one. I still like what he brings to this team now that he is shooting it well.
5 points, 0 assists, 3 rebounds
Derek Culver – Another huge performance for Culver. He had a double double by halftime and was able to consistanly find the holes in the zone to grab rebounds for second chance points. I was really impressed with his defense on the few possessions down the stretch where he got switched onto Cunningham. This is now the second time that he has reached this amount of points and rebounds in a game. The last one was last year against TCU where he grabbed 22 points and 21 rebounds. The last time this happened was all the way back in 1974 by Warren Baker.
22 points, 0 assists, 19 rebounds
Taz Sherman – I would argue that Taz is the biggest cog to this offense running effectively. I think he has the best combination of shooting, getting the rim, and creating plays for others when he posts up at the free throw line. If we have to run a play instead of just running an open offense, I love him getting the ball there for either a mid range jumper, a drive to the basket, or dropping it off to Culver on the block. One area he needs to improve is on the defensive end but maybe if they move towards more of a Press Virginia style, he’ll be better in that role.
20 points, 1 assists, 4 rebound
Gabe Osabuohien – The stat sheet does not speak to how affective he was late. He spent most of the game on the bench due to foul trouble but he changed the last few minutes.
0 points, 0 assists, 1 rebound
Jordan McCabe – McCabe had a bad turnover in the first half and the dynamic between him and McBride when they are on the court at the same time just doesn’t work. He may have just lost his minutes to Kedrian Johnson but we’ll see what happens moving forward. I still think he can be a valuable piece but guards can just drive right by him. That will never earn you points with Huggins.
0 points, 2 assists, 0 rebound
Kedrian Johnson – Johnson had seen so little time that the announcers weren’t even prepared with his stats at the free throw line when he stepped up late. A lineup of Johnson and McBride can be a Jevon Carter and Dax Miles type backcourt. Those guys changed the face of the program so they still have some work to reach that level but you can see that this team has a different intensity level. This team has struggled all year keeping guards in front of them so to win games, Johnson has to see the court more. He also showed that he is getting the hang of things on the offensive end. It takes time to adjust from the JUCO ranks but it is his time to shine and help this team pull off some upsets over the next week.
9 points, 5 assists, 3 rebound