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Mountaineers settle in, take care of Zips in season opener

MORGANTOWN W.Va- An impressive crowd made their way into the coliseum Friday night to watch the Mountaineers take care of the Akron Zips by a score of 94-84, marking the first season-opening victory since 2016.

Despite a hot shooting start by Akron to put them out in front early, the Mountaineers slowly gained confidence and put away the opening game jitters to shoot 49% in the first half, including 50% from the three-point line.

Emmitt Matthews Jr. was hot early sinking three straight three-pointers to pace the way for the Mountaineers in the first half. 

With Jermaine Haley sitting out of the exhibition matchup against Duquesne due to injury, all concerns over his health were quickly quieted after he registered 16 points and 7 rebounds to start off his senior season. 

Derek Culver picked up right where he left off, and started his sophomore campaign off the right way, matching Haley’s output with a 16 point and 7 rebound performance of his own.

After hearing about freshman Miles “Deuce” McBride all offseason, West Virginia fans finally got a chance to see him in action and he certainly didn’t disappoint. The first-year player out of Cincinnati’s Bishop Moehler high school tallied 8 points, providing a spark for Bob Huggins off the bench while playing with high confidence all game. 

“I know I have to come in off the bench and provide a spark to try to get guys where they need to be. I’ll try to throw it up the floor and if I can get to the rim, then I’ll get to the rim,” said McBride. “I Just do things within my game.”

McBride was just one of the Mountaineers who played with great confidence coming off the bench for Bob Huggins. Chase Harler scored 9, while Taj Sherman tallied 8 of his own, both contributing to the 42 total bench points by the Mountaineers.

When asked about his team’s performance Friday night, coach Huggins said they did many things well, but the focus moving forward is getting guys to stay within the strengths of their game.

Huggins used an example for a former WVU team playing Villanova. While the Mountaineers fell behind early, the players expected to get an ear-full at halftime. Huggins’s simple message was to ‘do what made you the player you are today, and stay away from the things that make you the player that you are right now.’ The Mountaineers would come back and win, and prove the importance of staying within yourself when facing a challenge.

“Everybody wants to prove that they can do things that they can’t do,” said Huggins. 

While the Mountaineers forced 16 Zip turnovers, the Mountaineers struggled with offensive rebounds despite having both Culver and Tshiebwe. 

Oscar Tshiebwe, the Big 12 preseason freshman of the year tallied 5 points and 5 rebounds in his Mountaineer debut while being plagued by foul trouble early.

The Mountaineers move to (1-0) and will face the Pitt Panthers in Pittsburgh next Friday. The game will tip-off at 7:00 and will be televised on ESPNU.

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