Mountaineers Unsatisfied after Posting Largest Victory of Season

Christopher Hall

Morgantown, WV – The final buzzer sounds and the West Virginia Mountaineers secure its largest margin of victory on the young season over the Boston Terriers 69-44.

West Virginia held the Terriers to their lowest point total this year on 33% shooting from the field (second-worst shooting performance on the season). This same Boston team beat South Carolina Tuesday night.

West Virginia built a 23-5 lead inside the first 11 minutes. Then, the Mountaineers went scoreless for four minutes shooting 0-5 from the field before Miles McBride hit a three to give WVU a 12-point advantage 26-14.

The Mountaineers came out of halftime on an 8-0 run, including six points off turnovers and a dunk from Oscar Tshiebwe that ignited the crowd and put West Virginia up 46-23 with 17:12 left to play. West Virginia went on to lead by as many 28 points in the second half before the 69-44 win.

The game was never in doubt, but West Virginia continues to leave plays on the floor. If you believe in the term ‘winning ugly’ than this may best describe West Virginia’s start to the season outside of the Pitt game.

Let’s turn back the clock to last year. West Virginia brought in a bunch of new faces to a team that had talent. The injury bug hit them early and core pieces continued to miss time, along with a bad attitude that resulted in departures of two key players.

The team finished the 2018 regular season 12-19 and 4-14 in Big 12 play. There was a bit of optimism from the young team that was led by mainly a group of freshmen that finished the final four games 2-2 (The only losses coming on the road) and two more wins in the Big 12 Tournament including beating seventh-ranked Texas Tech.

The season ended in bitter disappointment after a 109-91 home loss in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) to Coastal Carolina. However, there was still that optimism.

That nucleus that put a competitive team together at the end of the season were still freshmen, first-year players and guys that hadn’t seen that many quality minutes. Then add five new players coming into this year, the team had to once again learn to play with one another.

There was always that feeling last year that the switch was going to flip and the team was going to come together and find a way to put a string of wins together but it never happened.

This might be the cause of Bob Huggins's mood after the win over Boston. Not that he’s in a bad mood. It's more of discontent. 

West Virginia is winning but it hasn’t looked pretty at times. The timing is a little off offensively and miscommunication on defense gets Huggins off his stool and searching for someone on the bench to get the culprit off the floor.

“We’re getting better, but then we got away from what we started doing at Pitt, which was good for us,” Huggins said about the team defense. “We got away from it today for some odd reason unknown to man. It was guys that you wouldn’t suspect. They would not do what they were supposed to do. Part of that maybe was we had guys in there that hadn’t played a bunch of minutes, and they’d start getting on the wrong side of a guy. We’re trying to be consistent with it, and we may have made a mistake when we said, ‘let’s go ahead and double out of it.” (It’s) not that we shouldn’t do that, but it might be too soon to do that. Then you sit and look at the schedule, and you see who you have coming up, and we’re going to need to.”

The team’s most consistent and leading scorer Jermaine Haley finished the night with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but with Haley off the floor, the Mountaineers struggle to find any rhythm on the offensive end.

“With each game, I kind of know which guys are on the floor are going to go on runs and how long we’re going to be on the floor,” said Haley. “And I think tonight, our starting lineup did a tremendous job, at times during the game – it’s just gelling with the other guys and when you’re getting in the game with other guys on the floor. It’s just learning how to play with each other. That’s why it’s stagnant at times… With time it will get better… I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

Nonetheless, there is a stark contrast from last season, they’re not only winning, but the team is also working together to improve.

“There’s little things we need to work on, and I think they’re not just going to happen overnight,” said Haley. “We’ve been getting at certain things that we were terrible at last year like guarding ball screens. But I think we just took them out of their stuff today, which we went over in practice and that all it is. We run scout and we guard the teams' plays, so it’s just locking it in – in practice and just translating it over in games.”

Oscar Tshiebwe had another double-double after ending the night with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Then during Huggins's post-game press conference, its almost word for word on how he described Derek Culver last year during his freshman year when Culver racked up his fair share of double-doubles.

“They don’t know what they are doing,” which is scary considering how dominant they’ve been at times.

“Oscar is really only played a couple of years, said Huggins. “And that’s at the high school level were obviously he was bigger and stronger and everything more than the people he’s playing against. We got a lot of work to do with him and he’s got a lot of work to do. Just his understanding. You know, Derek got better as the year went on a year ago and I think he continues to get better now but Derek has a little bit better understanding of when and why than Oscar does. But Oscar wants to learn… He’s a great kid. He wants to learn. He wants to get better. He wants to do all the right things. I think sometimes he almost wants to do the right things too much that he doesn’t cut loose and really play.”

West Virginia heads to Riviera Maya, Mexico to play Northern Iowa inside the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya for the Cancun Challenge on Tuesday at 8:30 pm est and broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.