With Miles McBride nursing some nagging issues and Derek Culver in foul trouble during Saturday’s win over Kansas State, West Virginia needed some productive minutes from its supporting cast.
And the Mountaineers got it.
Jordan McCabe got the start in place of McBride and played a little more than 21 minutes to serve as West Virginia’s floor general. Sean McNeil led the team with 16 points with four 3s. Redshirt freshman Jalen Bridges started and provided 18 and a half quality minutes to go with eight points and four rebounds. And even though Gabe Osabouhien didn’t attempt a single shot, he helped bolster a West Virginia defense that held the Wildcats to just 43 points, a season-low for the WVU defense and the second time the Mountaineers have held K-State to less than 50.
Offensively, if West Virginia is going to rely on players that don’t wear the Nos. 1 or 4, a lot of production is probably going to rely on shooting the basketball.
“I think it was a tough shooting night for all of us all down the board,” McNeil said. “At halftime, we talked, made some adjustments and figured out who we were really going to be. We came out in the second half and kind of showed that.”
McNeil was efficient enough by game’s end to get the job done for WVU, dropping in 6-of-16 shots, including four from beyond the arc.
Getting decent looks, however, comes from whatever productivity McCabe is setting into motion.
“Jordan’s been efficient all year. That’s just who Jordan is,” McNeil said of the point guard. “He’s our guy, he’s our leader. We kind of rely on him to get us calmed down, relaxed in situations.”
WVU Coach Bob Huggins agreed, giving McCabe credit for keeping the offense flowing even when things seemed stagnant.
“He didn’t start out really well, but I thought as the game went on, he started to feel a lot more comfortable,” Huggins said. “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 said getting the starting nod didn’t change his usual mentality, which typically involves coming off the bench.
“Roles are roles,” he said. “Coming off the bench my role is to calm us down … in the beginning (of the game) that was my same goal.”
Two other role players — Bridges and Osabouhien — accepted their challenges as well, especially on defense.
“When (Bridges) and Gabe are in the game together, our front line is very active,” Huggins said.
While it may not be ideal to some fans when the “go-to guys” don’t fill the stat sheet, knowing that your squad can still perform and pick up wins on the backs of the rest of the team is nothing to scoff at.
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