Who would’ve thought that all within a week that Oscar Tshiebwe would transfer to Kentucky, Mountaineers would comeback down 18 points with 11 minutes against Oklahoma State and then lose to No. 4 Texas on a game-winning three after leading most of the game?
No one expect all of that.
No. 13 West Virginia (9-4, 2-3 Big 12) has dropped two out of the last three games. The one win being the biggest comeback in WVU basketball since 2010.
With Tshiebwe transferring and Isaiah Cottrell out for the rest of the season, the Mountaineers have had to create their own new identity.
Players like Jalen Bridges, Taz Sherman and Kedrian Johnson have been examples of people that have stepped up as of late.
Despite the recent struggles and adjustments, WVU coach Bob Huggins isn’t concerned.
“We are where we are, and we’re still pretty damn good,” Huggins said. “I mean we haven’t lost to chumps.”
“We’re still pretty good,” Huggins added.
WVU will travel to Waco, Texas to take on the undefeated No. 2-ranked Baylor Bears.
The Bears (11-0, 4-0 Big 12) have notably defeated Illinois (82-69) and Oklahoma (76-61). Other than Oklahoma, Baylor and West Virginia share another common opponent in Iowa State. Both teams were victorious in their respective matchups with the Cyclones.
Baylor averages 89 points in 11 games, which puts them sixth in the country in that category. As usual, the Bears’ defense is their specialty, allowing 61.2 points per game this season.
While the Mountaineers seek to get back up to .500 in conference play, they will have to face another experienced team.
Baylor is highlighted by potential Wooden Award finalist Jared Butler. Butler averages 16.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists. The 6’3″ guard scored a season-high of 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting against TCU on Saturday.
Butler is supported by upperclassmen MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell, Mark Vital and Matthew Mayer.
Redshirt Sophomores Adam Flagler and Jonathon Tchamwa Tchatchoua (one of the best names in sports right now) have increased their productivity playing on their new teams. Flagler, a former player at Presbyterian, averages 10.1 points in his first nine games in Waco. Tchamwa Tchatchoua is a former UNLV Rebel that has averaged 9.0 points and have pulled down 7.2 rebounds in 11 games.
Just to add another thing to their plate, West Virginia has been banged up as of late with Sean McNeil’s toe bothering him, and Derek Culver dealing with fatigue. Last week, some of the Mountaineers dealt with the flu (not COVID).
Culver has been the primary big man since Tshiebwe left, averaging 13.8 points and 10.8 rebounds. The Ohio native has recorded seven double-doubles already on the growing season.
Deuce McBride leads the Mountaineers in points, averaging 15.1 points on 43% shooting from the field. The sophomore McBride also has taken a leap in assists from his freshman campaign, averaging 4.0 assists.
No. 13 West Virginia will tip-off with No. 2 Baylor in Waco at 9 p.m. on Tuesday. Coverage will be on ESPN2.