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With expanded role on offense, Jalen Bridges starting to find stride

MORGANTOWN W.Va- While the Mountaineers eased back into their Big-12 schedule with an important victory over Kansas State, redshirt-freshman Jalen Bridges tallied another strong game to his resume.

The Fairmont product finished the game against the Wildcats on 5/6 shooting, tallying twelve points on the afternoon.

This game marked the second time in the last four games where Bridges finished with 12+ points, and gave the Mountaineers a huge boost in the starting role following a team hiatus during COVID protocols. 

Bob Huggins stated earlier in the season that Bridges was one of the top rebounders in practice during his redshirt season.

While Bridges has shot the ball well since seeing his minutes increase, foul trouble has been an issue. The two games prior to the Kansas State game, he was plagued with four fouls. For Bridges, the next step seems to be finding consistency in his game.

Bridges said postgame that staying out of foul trouble is one aspect he is working on improving midseason.

“I had to adapt,” said Bridges. I feel like I’m starting to come along, and am playing with confidence. I think I’m a smarter defensive player. I don’t want to be in foul trouble where I’m forced to sit. I’ve tightened up on defense, having less fouls due to being late on defense. I’m starting to fly around more, which makes it harder for the opposing teams for score.”

Jalen Bridges shooting around before a game in 2020.

Before Oscar Tshiebwe departed for Kentucky, Bridges’ minutes were limited, and he only eclipsed 10 minutes on the floor twice in the nine games prior.

Now with four consecutive games with 15+ minutes, finding the consistency he is searching for will be key. This will also be important for the Mountaineers in having another reliant weapon on offense when Bob Huggins looks to someone for a much-needed bucket. 

With Tshiebwe gone, the floor has opened up much more, with younger players like Bridges and first-year Mountaineer guard Kedrian Johnson seeing their minutes rise. This not only with help the immediate depth on the floor, but will surely do wonders later in the season and beyond being able to get minutes early in their Mountaineer careers.

Moving down the stretch in league play, Bridges will continue to be essential on both ends for the Mountaineers and his development will be important for a deep run in the 2021 NCAA tournament.

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