by Jim Buzzerd
There has yet to be much written in this space about the 2021-22 West Virginia University Men’s Basketball Team. Today I’ll offer some of my observations. The most positive thing I can offer is the team has a decent 13-3 record heading into Tuesday’s home game with defending NCAA Champion Baylor. The Mountaineers are 2-2 in conference following Saturday’s 85-59 loss at Kansas being outscored 52-28 in the second half.
That second half collapse actually began at the 10:48 mark in the first half when WVU led 22-14. WVU was outscored over the final 30:48 by a 71-37 margin. Who knows how much the final margin of victory would have been had not Mountaineer backup point guard, Malik Curry, put up 23 points. I’m not the kind of Mountaineer fan that will turn off a game in progress, but during the second half Saturday I became disinterested enough that I focused more on getting the grill ready to cook a chicken than I did on the game.
Let’s talk about Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil, WVU’s two shooting guards that are being counted on to provide a huge chunk of the Mountaineers’ scoring. Sherman was 1-9 from the field including 0-5 from beyond the arc. The team’s leading scorer picked up three free throws to finish with five points. In fairness to Sherman, he did miss the Texas game on New Year’s Day with COVID, and he’s been sluggish since, but Saturday was a bad day.
McNeil had a better day with 10 points on 4-11 shooting. The stat that stands out to me is 1-3 shooting from behind the three-point line. WVU must get McNeil more three-point shots, many more. Three attempts in 37 minutes isn’t going to cut it, especially with Sherman ailing.
Jalen Bridges has shown signs of becoming the much needed third scorer. He’s been timid at times but had an 18-point outing at Texas and 22 points against Oklahoma State. He had 12 at Kansas Saturday and WVU will be better off if the freshman from Fairmont continues to look for more shots. His 11 rebounds against the Jayhawks was a season high.
Curry, a graduate transfer from Old Dominion, had his best game as a Mountaineer Saturday. His 23-point total included 11-11 from the foul line with no three-point baskets. Curry has been very much the wild card in his short tenure at West Virginia. He has been prone to turnovers, which isn’t a good trait for a point guard. On the season Curry has 27 assists to 26 turnovers. Curry’s strength is driving to the basket, but there are times he might want to consider kicking the ball out to the open three-point shooters.
West Virginia has rebounded from one sided losses like Saturday’s 26 point loss many times with bounce back wins in the friendly confines of the Coliseum. Tuesday was a chance to do just that against fifth ranked Baylor. If the Mountaineers can’t get the win at home things get more difficult with a Saturday visit to Lubbock to face 19th ranked Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have recent wins over Kansas and Baylor.