On Saturday, West Virginia had a familiar look to the starting five against Kansas State. Starting point guard and team-leading scorer Miles “Deuce” McBride has been battling some minor injuries, and to manage his minutes as the Mountaineers faced an upcoming three-game gauntlet in five days, Jordan McCabe got the starting nod in his place.
Of course, McCabe is accustomed to the starting role. After starting five games as a freshman, he took over the job the final 10 games of the season. He hit a career-high 25 points against TCU in the second game. He averaged 13.5 points during that span, becoming a leader, pulling the team together to make a run at the end of an abysmal season highlighted by an upset win over a top 10 Texas Tech team and an invite to the CBI.
McCabe started 29 games last season as a sophomore, but his minutes diminished along with his production with the emergence of then freshman Deuce McBride.
This season, he has played the role of backup, but McCabe did make four straight starts alongside McBride as West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins was tinkering with his rotations following the departure of Oscar Tshiebwe and, although at times he’s struggled, his minutes have increased due to his solid play.
McCabe created offense early for the Mountaineers against a stingy K-State defense after forward Gabe Osabuohien snagged an offensive rebound, he kicked out to McCabe, who gave a pump fake before pulling the ball out, then putting the ball down the floor, drove down the right side of the lane before dumping it off to Osabuohien, who then unselfishly tossed it to Emmitt Matthews Jr for an easy dunk to grab the early 11-4 advantage.
It was a fast start for the junior that went through a seven-game stretch early in the season where he only averaged seven minutes per game. He worked through his struggles and found his role coming off the bench, contributing wherever his team needs him, and took the same mindset into the game Saturday.
“My mentality didn’t change a whole lot. Roles are roles,” said McCabe. “So, coming off the bench, my role is to calm us down wherever we were at whether we’re up ten, down ten – even. When I get those minutes coming off the bench, my goal is to calm us down and get us to run offense. So, in the beginning, that was my same goal. I thought we did an OK job early on, and then we just kind of hit a wall – got stagnant.”
In the second half, McCabe continued to be aggressive, again driving down the right side of the lane, except this time, drawing the contact and the foul and made the bucket, topping it off with the free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play.
“He didn’t start out really well, but I thought as the game went on, he started to feel a lot more comfortable,” said Huggins. “He’s got to make some of those shots that he had, but he’s really capable, and that’s why you want him out there because for us, spreading the floor and keeping Derek down there alone has been pretty good for us.”
McCabe finished the night with seven points and two assists but, most importantly, no turnovers in 21 minutes, along with keeping the ball moving, whether it was getting into a gap and kicking it out, driving the lane, or a quick reversal, he kept the offense moving.
“I mean, that’s all reads. At 5’10”, whatever I’m standing, and I’m the shortest, and if we ran 40’s, I’m probably the slowest guy in our league," said McCAbe. "So, I just have to make reads. If I can get a step on a guy, that’s great, but I just take what they give me. (Graduate Assistant Manager) Juwan’s (Staten) been great in terms of breaking down on how to be an undersized guard - he’ll be upset that I compared me and him in terms of height, but he’ll get over it. But yeah, it’s just making reads if I can get to the rim, I can get to the rim, but at the end of the day, if I can get others involved, that’s the goal.”
McCabe and the Mountaineers are back in action Tuesday night as they play host to the Baylor Bears at 5:00 pm EST on ESPN.
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