by Jim Buzzerd
See ya, Oscar
The West Virginia University Football Team found a way to beat Army 24-21 last Thursday in the Liberty Bowl. Austin Kendall replaced Jarret Doege who had made some poor decisions in holding the ball too long. One instance caused a Doege fumble deep in the Mountaineers territory leading to an Army touchdown. Head coach Neal Brown decided to go with Kendall in the second half. It was only Kendall’s second appearance this season after starting eight games in 2019. The Oklahoma transfer was a modest 8-17 passing, but he threw two touchdown passes to help WVU to come back to beat a tough Army team.
That was New Year’s Eve. The next day news broke that the head basketball coach Bob Huggins’ team would be losing prize recruit Oscar Tshiebwe. Huggins said there is no chance Tshiebwe will return to the team. “Absolutely not,” was Huggins’ response when asked if there was a chance for Tshiebwe to return.
It’s unclear at this point what exactly has led to Tshiebwe leaving the team. In an interview with the sophomore following last Tuesday’s win over Northeastern Tshiebwe said, “I had a really good conversation with Coach Huggins. He said, you don’t need to think. Make a play. If you make it, you make it. If you miss, you miss. Just make a play and play hard.’ I don’t think I have been playing really hard like how I always play.”
That doesn’t sound like a kid planning to leave the program. It will be interesting to find out what happened between Tuesday and Friday, though we may never know the whole story. While most of us were surprised at this development, Huggins was not.
“Did it catch me by surprise? No. What do we do going forward? We are going to win more games. 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 and make shots and give Derek (Culver) a lot more room to work down there.”
Tshiebwe was definitely not performing at a level near the way he did his freshman season. Last Tuesday though, Tshiebwe looked more like he did a year ago scoring 12 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in 21 minutes.
On Saturday WVU overcame an 18-point halftime deficit at Oklahoma, but still lost despite tying the game several times in the second half. A key stat was the Sooners’ 41-36 rebounding edge. And it will be rebounding where Tshiebwe will be missed the most. Making the situation even worse is 6-10 freshman Isaiah Cottrell tore his achilles against Northeastern and is lost for the season. Cottrell was showing signs of progress too.
So, WVU loses 6-9 and 6-10 players in a matter of three days. That, folks, isn’t the way to start 2021. In Monday night’s game against Oklahoma State the Mountaineers played a dismal first half, trialing by 10 at halftime. That deficit grew to 19 at the 11:15 mark of the second half before WVU put on one of their all-time greatest comebacks. They took a 76-75 lead with three minutes to go and held on for an unlikely 87-84 win.
Culver took advantage of Tshiebwe’s absence and filled the void with 19 rebounds and 22 points in 36 minutes.