by Jim Buzzerd
First, a quick reminder that today, December 15, begins the early signing period for college football recruits. West Virginia University has lost a couple high profile verbal commitments from the current class in recent weeks. Even so, this class remains solid with a national ranking of 28. More changes can occur, both good and bad, by Wednesday. We’ll know more soon.
The Mountaineer basketball team picked up a nice 56-53 win over 15th ranked Connecticut last Wednesday in the Coliseum. The Huskies were without two starters and WVU was able to take full advantage. West Virginia improved their record to 9-1 with a 63-50 win over Kent State on Sunday.
The wins are great, but are they fool’s gold? A disturbing trend is emerging, and has been for most of the season, WVU is relying much too heavily on Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil to get points. Against UCONN Sherman had 23 points and McNeil had 16 points to account for 39 of the Mountaineers’ 56 points. Gabe Osabuohien, not known for his scoring, was third with six points that included a difficult to watch 2-8 from the foul line. WVU was equally horrendous as a team making just 12 of 27 foul shots. A win is a win, I guess.
In Sunday’s win over Kent State Sherman scored 27 points and McNeil had 19 points, so the pair scored 46 of WVU’s 63 points. The next highest scorers were Kedrian Johnson and Dimon Carrigan each with four points. WVU did improve from horrendous at the foul line to a simply horrible 13 of 24 effort.
The Big 12 portion of the schedule begins at Texas on New Year’s Day and that’s the day that WVU will begin to see teams on a regular basis that will have the defensive talent to take Sherman and McNeil out of their comfort zones. That will be even easier to do if someone doesn’t step up and pick up the scoring.
Going into the season the thinking was Jalen Bridges would be the third guy. He was coming on late last season and was supposed to replace the transferring Emmitt Matthews without skipping a beat. Maybe it’s a sophomore slump, but in the two games last week Bridges was 1-3 in each game for a total of six points.
Also telling is that he went to the foul line just once in 43 minutes of court time and missed both shots. Only one of his seven field goal attempts came inside the three-point arc. It would seem West Virginia could benefit from the 6-7 Bridges to become more active around the basket on offense.
The same could be said for 6-10 starter Isaiah Cottrell who managed just five points and two rebounds in two games last week. Cottrell gets a temporary pass here as he is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered early last season.
West Virginia won’t take the court until Saturday when they travel for their first true road game with the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Blazers are 8-2 under coach Andy Kennedy, a former assistant to WVU head coach Bob Huggins at Cincinnati. This will be a tough road game for WVU and can be seen on the CBS Sports Network at 5 p.m.
West Virginia will conclude the 2021 portion of their schedule next Wednesday when they host Youngstown State in a 6 p.m. game on ESPN+.