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Sophomore Slumps Starting to Cost Mountaineers as the Season Winds Down

Cody Nespor

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Before this season began, there were legitimate concerns about where West Virginia was going to get its production on offense.

Five of the team’s top six scorers from 2018-19 were gone. Sagaba Konate (13.6 points per game) left for the NBA draft, ‘Beetle’ Bolden (12.2) and Lamont West (11.1) transferred away and Esa Ahmad (12) and Wesley Harris (7.9) were dismissed from the team.

That meant the only major contributors returning to WVU for the 2019-20 season were four-year senior Chase Harler (5.4 ppg in 18-19), first-year JUCO transfer Jermaine Haley (7.1) and true freshmen Derek Culver (11.5), Jordan McCabe (5.8) and Emmitt Matthews Jr. (5.4).

WVU coach Bob Huggins was bringing in a pair of junior college shooters in Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman and McDonalds All-American Oscar Tshiebwe, but the hope was that WVU’s young players from 18-19 would be able to take the next step forward and become leaders on the court.

While Culver’s production this season has been solid, if not somewhat underwhelming, Both McCabe and Matthews have taken steps back from where they finished last season.

The Mountaineers have been inconsistent on offense all season, but it has really started to cost them, losing five of their last six games.

Derek Culver

Culver missed the first 15 games last season serving a team suspension, but came back and made his mark on the Big 12 conference. In 24 games Culver averaged 11.5 points and 9.9 rebounds. He was the leading in-conference rebounder with 258. He shot 45.6% from the floor and 58.5% from the free-throw line. Before this season Culver was named an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention and many were expecting a breakout season.

Culver has not exactly broken out as a sophomore. Now playing with another big man in Tshiebwe, all of Culver’s averages have taken a hit. He averages 10.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and is shooting 44.3% from the field and 56.7% from the line.

Jordan McCabe

McCabe really emerged as WVU’s starting point guard late last season. For the whole season, he averaged 5.8 points, 3.5 assists and had a 1.76 assist to turnover ratio. In the team’s final 10 games, however, McCabe averaged 13.5 points, 7.7 assists and had a 3.35 assist to turnover ratio. In that stretch, McCabe shot 37.2% from the floor and 38.2% from three-point range.

In 2019-20 McCabe’s offense has all but fallen off a cliff. The sophomore is averaging 3.2 points and 1.6 assists per game with a 1.26 assist to turnover ratio. He has scored in double figures just twice this season. He is shooting 30.5% from the field and just 21% from three.

Emmitt Matthews Jr.

Like McCabe, Matthews really came on late last season for WVU. In the team’s final eight games Matthews averaged 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds on 44.9% shooting. At the beginning of this season, it looked like that success was going to carry over. In WVU’s first 10 games this season Matthews was averaging 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds and was shooting 47.1%.

Matthews’s offense has disappeared since then. In his last 16 games, Matthews is averaging just 4.1 points. His season averages are now just 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds. He is shooting 38.3% from the floor and 29.4% from three.

West Virginia has scored more than 60 points just once in its previous six games, a 65-60 win at home against Oklahoma State. In a stretch where the Mountaineers have needed offense the most, there has not been anyone the team can consistently turn to to make baskets.

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Cody is currently a second-year graduate student at West Virginia University studying journalism. His graduate research focuses on the effects newspaper closures have on local communities. 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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