Redshirt Freshman Jalen Bridges stepped up in a big way in No. 6 West Virginia's 76-67 victory over TCU on Thursday Night.
Bridges knocked down a trio of threes and nine rebounds in the fist 20 minutes of the game and his firepower continued throughout 33 minutes on the floor. The forward finished the game with a career-high 22 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. He also added a block and two steals for the Mountaineers.
Following his team's victory, WVU head coach Bob Huggins discussed Bridges' progress and potential.
"He’s really worked at it," Huggins said of Bridges' development. "He’s a guy who gets in the gym, and he works on what you ask him to work on, and he is getting better and better and better because of that. I think the other thing is that he knows what he can do and what he can’t, so he really tries to accentuate the positive and stay away from the negative."
Bridges, who currently averages 3.3 rebounds per game, has been working on improving his performance on the glass.
"I don’t think he’s back to what he was at the end of last year yet," Huggins said. "But we’re asking him to do a lot of different things now too, and I think that plays into it. A year ago he was on the second team. There wasn’t the pressure because he wasn’t playing in games, he was redshirting. Now, he is not just going to get in, but he is a very integral part of the team."
Huggins also discussed Bridges' growing role in the Mountaineers lineup, especially after losing big man Oscar Tshiebwe to the NCAA transfer portal in early January.
"This is not a shot at him," Huggins said, referring to Tshiebwe. "But we are better off with Jalen because it isolates (junior forward) Derek (Culver) down there. It was so crowded in the lane. We tried roll and replace, and we tried all those things. There were teams that played other bigs, and it was fine, but a majority of people are not playing bigs like that all that much."
As for Bridges' potential, Huggins says that the redshirt freshman might not have a ceiling.
"I don’t know if he has a ceiling, Huggins said. "He is a guy that has good feet. He can pass the ball. He’s obviously going to end up probably as a three man out on the perimeter guarding and passing. He has plenty of things he can work on to continue to expand his game. The great thing about JB is that JB does what you ask him to do, and he really tries to excel at what he is asked to do. That doesn’t happen a whole lot in this climate we’re in in college basketball."
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