West Virginia Gets Back to Their Roots in Win Over Oklahoma State
Morgantown, WV – West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins was searching for answers amid a three-game skid. Offensively, West Virginia lacked consistency and most notably, a “go-to” scorer. Huggins indicated there were going to be changes in the starting lineup Monday before practice and when the starting five was announced two new faces emerged.
Huggins decided to go with a smaller lineup. Taz Sherman made his second career start along with freshman Miles “Deuce” McBride making his first start with Derek Culver and Jordan McCabe coming off the bench.
West Virginia started efficiently grabbing an 8-6 lead, but Oklahoma State was switching defenses from a man to a zone and the Mountaineers seemed perplexed as the Cowboys took a 10-point advantage near the midway point of the first half.
“It didn’t seem like it helped us much,” Huggins commented on the change in the starting lineup. “They were really well prepared. They took away everything that they wanted to do, and we didn’t handle it very well. You’re talking about a bunch of upperclassmen, a bunch of seniors and they kind of overpowered our younger guys. You know, go into halftime and say, ‘can’t do that anymore.’ And so, we put Derek in. Jermaine was playing forward, moved him to guard, so we could utilize our size.”
West Virginia couldn’t cut into the deficit until Jermaine Haley threw up a three from the corner as time expired before the half that bounced and rolled around the rim before falling through to get the Mountaineers back within five at the break.
Oklahoma State shot 61.9% from the field in the first half in what looked like one of those nights that everything they were throwing towards the rim was going in.
“We talked about what we have to do defensively to do a better job,” said Huggins. “We were on the side of them the whole half instead of being in front of them. We tried to get in front of them.”
West Virginia continued to grind it out on the defensive and held Oklahoma State to 14 points on 5-30 (16.7%) shooting from the field.
“I thought we did a better job of covering them up,” said Huggins. “They’re really good shooters, and we were giving them step-in shots, and we were giving them a lot of pitch stuff off of penetration. We didn’t do a very good job. The whole battle was (that) we just didn’t stay in front of them very well, and we didn’t do what we were supposed to do. I mean, their first two baskets are shots in the corner with a guy driving the baseline, which - anybody who's ever played basketball knows - if the guy drives the baseline, he’s going to throw it to the corner. You step in and steal the ball, and we go the other way.” We didn’t do it either time. We’re trying to get them back to playing fundamentally the way that we’re supposed to play. Somehow, we ended up being ball watchers to start the game.”
The Mountaineers dominating the glass and it primarily came from their bigs Oscar Tshiebwe (7) and Derek Culver (9) combining for 16 second-half rebounds.
“You can’t underestimate what Derek did,” said Huggins. “You’re talking about a 6-foot-9, 200 and whatever he is. 265 or 270- pound guy who can sit down to stay in front of people. Make them shoot over him, and then, when he wants to be a shot blocker, he can block shots. I thought the first couple shots he blocked got their attention a little bit. They were a little less eager to drive it at the rim after that, and then he scored for us. I think the other thing is that they were getting more than one shot. It generally came after the ball got kicked around or whatever. When Derek got in there, I think he rebounded everything.”
Sean McNeil and Deuce McBride picked it up on the offensive end of the floor, both scoring nine points in the second half and led the team in scoring with 11 points a piece, along with Taz Sherman’s seven points in the waning moments of the first half, finishing with nine and Jermaine Haley, who spent the second half at the point, ended the evening with nine points.
“We win with different people, and again we started small and that probably wasn’t the right thing to do in hindsight, but we were struggling so bad to score while playing that bigger lineup. But I thought the big lineup in the second half really saved us. Derek (Culver) and (freshman forward) Oscar (Tshiebwe) and (junior forward) Gabe (Osabuohien) all were good defensively. I think moving Jermaine (Haley) from guarding a forward to out guarding a guard, he did a great job of shutting off their penetration and when they did penetrate, Derek did a great job of blocking and changing shots.”
What appeared to be a game that was going to come down to the final minutes, ended in a lopsided 65-47 win for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia saw career minutes from McBride (31) and McNeil (23) along with Taz Sherman continuing to increase his playing time and as a result, players that were leaned on at the beginning of the season minutes are decreasing.
“I’m just trying to win,” said Huggins. “We had a miserable year last year and I promised the state of West Virginia we wouldn’t do that again. That we’re going to get it going again. That we’re going to be in the NCAA tournament and we’re going to be a good team. We’re going to be ranked again. That’s more important to me.”
The Mountaineers are back in action on Saturday as they travel to Ft. Worth, TX to take on the TCU Horned Frogs at 2:00 pm on ESPNU.