These past few days have been a crazy period for the West Virginia Mountaineers, as they played Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on the road in a span of just over 48 hours, but they learned a lot about themselves.
It all started with the departure of Oscar Tshiebwe on Friday morning, shaking up the Mountaineers’ roster.
Luckily for WVU coach Bob Huggins, this wasn’t a surprise to him and he was more confident about the change than West Virginia fans were.
“Did it catch me by surprise? No. What are we going to do moving forward? Win more games,” Huggins said.
“I think this gives us an opportunity to be able to spread the floor a little bit more. Guys like JB (Jalen Bridges) will be able to spread the floor, make shots,” Huggins explained.
Well, Huggs is a future Hall of Famer for a reason because he was right about Jalen Bridges.
On Saturday against Oklahoma, Bridges made his first start as a Mountaineer. The in-state forward finished the game with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting, making 5-threes.
Being the guy to essentially replace Tshiebwe in the starting lineup brings a lot of added pressure and jitters. For Bridges, he was like anybody else would be in this situation.
“Leading up to the game, I kind of had nerves. I was kind of shaky. I was overthinking it,” Bridges said. “As soon as we arrived at the gym, my teammates just came together with me. They told me to just play your game and be aggressive.”
“I probably got my jitters out in the first 30 seconds,” Bridges added.
On Monday night against Oklahoma State, another player fans haven’t seen too much of this season stepped up.
Kedrian Johnson, who has played a total of 28 minutes, almost matched his season minute total in one game when he checked in for 25 minutes against the Cowboys.
Johnson was a huge part of the 19-point comeback the Mountaineers had, creating turnovers and pressuring on-the-ball like no other.
The former JUCO star finished with nine points, three rebounds and five assists.
Coach Huggins was very pleased by Johnson’s performance on Monday night.
“Well, we weren’t getting any pressure on the ball. We had no ball pressure,” Huggins said. “So they were standing around and picking us apart with open people and their dribble penetration was absolutely killing us. So it was, ‘Ked (Kedrian), can you go stop somebody,’ and he said ‘yes, sir.’”
“I thought he was terrific. He (Johnson) was far-a-away the difference of the game,” Huggins added.
Johnson will definitely be a WVU fan favorite by the end of this season with his scrappy toughness off the bench.
Taz Sherman has stepped up his scoring so far this season, averaging 12 points in 12 games. The senior stepped it up against the Oklahoma teams even more.
Sherman scored a combined 39 points on 40% from the field over the two games. The Texas native shot 7-of-15 from downtown as well.
“Well, he scores the ball for us. For whatever reason, we’ve struggled from the perimeter and he’s been our most consistent perimeter shooter,” Huggins said.
Sherman will look to continue to give the Mountaineers a spark off the bench and someone to get a basket from.
The show will go on after Tshiebwe officially entered the transfer portal on Tuesday night. Look for Bridges, Johnson and Sherman to continue to be the next guy up for WVU.