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WVU Basketball Fifth-Year Seniors Playing with Motivation During Final Stretch



Emmitt Matthews, DerMarr Johnson and Josh Eilert
Photo: Kelsie LeRose / WVSN

West Virginia is 3-1 in their last four games, with their only loss coming to No. 3 Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse by one basket. WVU’s fifth-year seniors have all stepped up their games during the final stretch of the regular season as their collegiate careers come to a close.

“It’s exciting for me to see because we probably have one of the most explosive offenses in the country if everything is clicking,” WVU F Emmitt Matthews said. “I think right now things are starting to click at the right time.”

For these fifth-year seniors, it started to click with them that their time is slowly running out at West Virginia. Matthews, Erik Stevenson and Kedrian Johnson are all playing their best basketball right now.

In the last four games:

Johnson: 14.5 PTS, 2.5 REB, 3.0 AST, 3.0 STL

Matthews: 13.8 PTS, 5.3 REB, 1.5 STL, 1.5 BLK

Stevenson: 24.0 PTS, 4.3 REB, 2.8 AST, 1.5 STL

“Keddy has been fantastic. Emmitt took a step back a little bit, having left and come back. Then he became a little bit more comfortable. He’s a great leader. Erik is going to lead whether it’s the right thing or not. He is that guy. Those guys have been terrific, and they’ve gotten better and better and better,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “I think they’ve been forced to grow because of the things that we continue to put on their backs, and really, you don’t have any choice. You’re not going to do that with freshmen. This is the culmination of being able to put things together.”

West Virginia was sitting at 15-12 after a bad loss to Texas Tech at home. It seemed like WVU’s chances to make the NCAA Tournament were almost slim to none. Just 50 hours later, the Mountaineers routed Oklahoma State at home, which was the beginning of the momentum building for the team. A close loss to Kansas in Lawrence actually gave the Mountaineers confidence that they can compete with any team in the country. In the same stretch, more adversity came at Iowa State when WVU was without bigs Mohamed Wague (foot) and James Okonkwo (ankle) due to injuries. WVU F Tre Mitchell was ejected mid-way through the second half, which forced Huggins to play small.

Matthews was shifted to the five-spot just with a few minutes left in the game. West Virginia proceeded to go on a 12-5 run in the final four minutes to steal their second Big 12 road win of the season.

Last Saturday, the fifth-year seniors once again led this team to a crucial win over No. 11 Kansas State and solidify their NCAA Tournament hopes. It was a perfect day for all three.

“It was a special day, no question about it. Especially for us three, it was our last home game ever in college,” Stevenson said.

West Virginia will look to continue their momentum into the Big 12 Conference Tournament this week. WVU will face Texas Tech in the first round in Kansas City on Wednesday.

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