MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Through most of its games this season, No. 11 West Virginia has struggled to put together a complete game, playing to its full potential.
On Sunday afternoon, the Mountaineers came out and played their best half of basketball of the season against No. 19 Richmond, who had an eight-game winning streak (dating back to last season).
WVU finished the first half on an 18-3 run, taking a commanding 52-30 lead at the break. The Mountaineers hit 23-of-35 (66%) of their shots from the field in the first twenty minutes.
WVU made 6-of-9 from beyond the arc.
“Well, they shoot like that in practice pretty much all along,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “I don’t think it was a matter of them looking like they were hot. They were just not normal. You know Sean (McNeil) really struggled in the games but made everything in practice. Taz (Sherman) has been pretty consistent making shots. We have to get JB (Jalen Bridges) going because he could be another guy making shots for us. Emmitt (Matthews Jr.) has made shots. So, we have to (make shots). If we don’t turn it over and we stop dribbling so much, we could be a good offensive team.”
The Mountaineers got scoring from 10 different players. Deuce McBride led the scoring frenzy with 20 points. Sherman had 15. Oscar Tshiebwe and McNeil both chipped in 12 points and Derek Culver added 10.
The Spiders led 12-11 with 14:13 remaining in the first half when WVU turned it on. The Mountaineers went on a 19-8 run.
During that stretch, WVU forced Richmond to make mistakes. Through the first four games, the Spiders were turning it over just 11 times a game but they gave it away 12 times in the first half. Seven of those turnovers came in the final seven minutes.
Defensively, the Mountaineers had been sound all season but they brought the pressure on Sunday.
While “Press Virginia” isn’t officially back, Huggins’ scheme worked to stop Richmond.
“The ability to have a different defense to go to to speed people up and get them uncomfortable is a great feeling,” Sherman said. “We are not ‘Press Virginia’ by any means. They had a different team just like us. But we have good athletes.”
Another positive from the win was the reemergence of Tshiebwe. The sophomore hasn’t played well through the first six games. However, the 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward looked more like the Tshiebwe of old.
“I expect to see a lot more from Oscar, honestly. He’s a talented guy. He’s getting better,” Huggins said. “He’s starting to become more and more the old Oscar. I expect more from Oscar, a lot more actually.”
Huggins has been saying all year that his team is full of shooters. Well, they showed up.
If WVU continues to play like they did on Sunday, they should be able to beat just about anyone.
The Mountaineers host Iowa State on Friday at 9 p.m.
Cover Photo Credit: Dale Sparks-WVU Sports