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No. 11 WVU Basketball Has Glaring Flaws Despite Solid 5-1 Start to Season



(photo: Dale Sparks/WVU Athletic Communications)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Despite being ranked No. 11 in the country and improving to 5-1 on the season with a Friday afternoon victory over North Texas, West Virginia University men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins had very little praise to offer his team. Huggins criticized the team’s effort vs. UNT, their inconsistency shooting the ball and his star player’s slow start to the season. He also pointed out how even the team’s improved turnover numbers this season are misleading.

Coming into the season, Huggins was adamant that the Mountaineers would be able to shoot the ball better than they did a year ago. The team shot 42.2% from the floor and 28.6% from three-point range last season. Through six games this year, WVU has slightly improved from range, shooting 31.1%, but has actually regressed overall, shooting 39.9%.

On Friday, Huggins pointed to five players — Sean McNeil, Taz Sherman, Miles ‘Deuce’ McBride, Jordan McCabe and Emmitt Matthews — who he said should be able to shoot better than they are.

“You’re looking at five guys right there who we thought could really stretch the floor, who’re are very capable of making threes, making shots off the bounce, really being able to occupy the defense,” Huggins said. “That hasn’t happened to this point, Not with all of them on the floor. Sean’s made shots but we didn’t have other guys making shots. Deuce has made shots, we didn’t have other guys making shots. Taz has made shots, didn’t have other guys making shots. We need people to be more consistent. When you’re open, you should have a great chance to make a shot, we haven’t. That’s been a problem.”

PlayerSean McNeilTaz ShermanMiles McBrideJordan McCabeEmmitt Matthews
2019-20 (FG% / 3PT%)36.9% / 33%38.3% / 33.3%40.2% / 30.4%31.1% / 20.9%39.1% / 30.1%
2020-21 (FG% / 3PT%)31.3% / 28.6%46.3% / 47.6%39.4% / 36.8%25% / 14.3%37.8% / 27.3%

Even something the team has improved on from last season, in this case turnovers, has not been completely positive this season, according to Huggins. The Mountaineers have cut down from 14.4 turnovers per game last season to 11.5 this season, but Huggins said the kinds of turnovers the team is committing are still bad.

“We’ve had all kinds of turnover problems because the worst type of turnovers are unforced turnovers and we’ve had a ton of unforced turnovers,” Huggins said. “That’s carelessness, it’s balance, maybe just being an awfully bad passer, but we haven’t passed it very well.”

The team has also improved its free-throw shooting, 64.2% to 74.5%, but again Huggins said he is not totally pleased with it this season.

“I thought we would shoot it better,” Huggins said Tuesday. “I think the biggest change is Derek [Culver] and Oscar [Tshiebwe] have gotten a little better, aside from Derek missing some in the Gonzaga game and Oscar missing some in the Georgetown game. I think those are the guys that get to the foul line the most, Derek gets to the foul line a lot.”

Culver has improved from 51.7% free throw shooting last season to 67.7% this year, but Tshiebwe has regressed from 70.8% to 60%. In fact, Tshiebwe has regressed in several statistical categories from his stellar freshman campaign.

Oscar TshiebweField Goal PercentageFree Throw PercentagePoints Per GameRebounds Per Game

“I love the kid, I’m not trying to say something disrespectful, but he hasn’t played very well,” Huggins said. “He hasn’t finished, he hasn’t ran, he hasn’t rebounded as well, he hasn’t passed it as well. We ran a lot of run-and-replace with him and Derek a year ago, I can’t do that now because they’re going to throw it to the wrong team and that shouldn’t happen, because they did it a year ago.”

The brightest spot on WVU’s team this season thus far has been the play of Culver. The junior leads the team in both scoring (14.5) and rebounding (10.7). On Friday, Culver said he fully expects his frontcourt counterpart to be back to his old self sooner rather than later.

“Oscar’s going to be Oscar,” Culver said. “What you’re seeing right now, don’t get accustomed to seeing it. This is just something that he’s going through. I’ve been through it, everybody that’s played at a high level has been through it. If you think this is Oscar that you’re seeing out there, it’s not. Whatever he’s going through right now, it’s going to pass pretty soon.”

West Virginia has a quick turnaround from Friday’s game, playing host to No. 19 Richmond in the Coliseum on Sunday. The Mountaineers and Spiders will tip-off at 1 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.

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Cody spent the last two years getting his master's degree in journalism from WVU. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2018 with a degree in digital media production. He was born and raised in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

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