MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – (December 24, 2020) — On Tuesday night, junior guard Sean McNeil proved to the pride of West Virginia and the rest of the country why he’s the difference maker for this year’s team.
I’ll tell you why.
When has the basketball team looked sometimes like a top-five team in the country? When McNeil is playing well.
McNeil has made an exceptional leap from his sophomore to his junior year, averaging 11.6 points in nine games.
The former JUCO product didn’t start in a single game last year for the Mountaineers but has started in all nine games this season.
So far, McNeil is shooting 36 percent from three, which is why he was brought to suit up for WVU.
The Kentucky native reflected on his summer and how he improved during the off-season.
“Compared to last year, this summer was huge for me playing in open gyms and even when we started practicing and getting things going,” McNeil explained. “I know it hasn’t really shown yet, but I’ve been a lot more consistent during practice. It’s just confidence. I know I can do it. I know I can make shots. It’s what Huggs brought me here to do.”
“The only way to make shots is to shoot them,” McNeil added.
McNeil has had great shooting performances against VCU and North Texas but also has had games that weren’t his night.
When the Mountaineers played No. 1-Gonzaga earlier in the month, McNeil finished the night with three points on 1-of-9 shooting. West Virginia’s offense struggled to keep up with the Bulldogs’ offense and lost, 87-82.
McNeil got his opportunity to redeem himself when WVU hosted No. 19-Richmond. The Mountaineers had their best game all year and the offense was consistently clicking.
McNeil finished the game with 12 points, on 5-of-8 shooting. The junior also went perfect from three, making both of his shots from downtown in his two attempts.
The half that really showed the potential of this Mountaineers’ offense came on Tuesday night against No. 3-Kansas. The crazy part is that it wasn’t even that high scoring of a half.
Sean McNeil carried the West Virginia offense in the first half against the Jayhawks.
It all started with Emmitt Matthews finding McNeil running to the outside edge of the three-point line and he drained the pull-up shot.
McNeil knew once he made that shot, that he would have a confidence boost.
“My body just felt really good going into the game in warmups,” McNeil said. “I saw that first one go in and it was a confidence builder from there.”
For the next 15 minutes of game time, McNeil’s teammates were on the hunt to find him roaming the three-point area.
Corner three… good.
Outside edge three, again… good.
Catch-and-shoot three… good.
Another corner three… good.
At this point in the game, McNeil is 5-of-5 from three, with no misses. The Mountaineers are down by two with seconds remaining in the half, and McNeil caps off his spectacular half with a 30-foot contest shot from the Jayhawks logo that banks in to take WVU into the locker room with a lead.
Sean McNeil definitely had a lot of Mountaineer fans saying, “HOLY $%#!”
McNeil had 20 of the 36 points that the Mountaineers scored. The former Sinclair Community College guard shot 7-of-7 from the field and 6-of-6 from three.
Deuce McBride commented on how McNeil’s first half impacted their offense.
“Sean lights it up in practice almost every day so we know what he can do and what he’s capable of,” McBride said.
“He’s a big gamer, he likes to play under the lights,” McBride added.
When Sean McNeil is shooting the lights out, this year’s team will be very hard to beat. If he stays consistent throughout the season, West Virginia will be National Champion contenders.
McNeil and the Mountaineers will take a small break and return to the WVU Coliseum next Tuesday against the newly scheduled Northeastern. Coverage will start at 2 p.m. on ESPN+.