MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With a 12-man rotation, there are a lot of players that come in off the bench for No. 12 WVU this season. Luckily for Bob Huggins’s squad, those bench players have been highly productive throughout the first half of the season.
Through the season’s first 16 games, Huggins has rolled out the same starting lineup 13 times, meaning the same players are coming off the bench all the time, allowing them to grow into their roles. This strategy has paid off as the Mountaineers bench has proven to be one of the most productive in the Big 12.
Freshman Miles McBride is the team’s third-leading scorer at 10.1 points per game, with all of that production coming off the bench. Fellow reserves Sean McNeil (5.4), Chase Harler (4.6), Brandon Knapper (3.9) and Taz Sherman (3.7) are number six through nine on the team in scoring.
Knapper has come off the bench in each game this season and said that it is the bench players’ job to bring energy into the game whenever they get in.
“Jordan (McCabe) starts, he’s a great leader, he goes out there…he starts it off good. Then we come in, me, Deuce (McBride), Taz, Sean McNeil, Chase Harler, we come off the bench and just try to lift the team up,” Knapper said. “We’re the energy guys, we know we can score, but we want to bring energy on the defensive side too.”
Going to the bench for scoring as much as the team has was the plan all along this season according to Bob Huggins.
“Honestly that’s why we recruited them,” Huggins said of his bench players. “We recruited Sean because he made shots and we went through a year where we couldn’t make shots…The same goes for Taz.”
WVU is averaging 72 points per game this season with 39.1 of those coming from the bench. Of the team’s 1,153 points scored this season, 44.3% of them (511) have come from players off the bench.
The extra boost the Mountaineers can call in off the bench has helped greatly this season, especially in the team’s biggest games. Two of the bench’s highest-scoring games this season have come when WVU is facing a ranked opponent. A season-high 45 points came from bench players in the team’s victory over then-No. 2 ranked Ohio State and the bench provided 41 points against then-No. 22 Texas Tech last week.
There have been five times this season when the bench has outscored WVU’s starters, the Ohio State game as the most drastic with the bench scoring 45 and the starters 22.
There have also been four victories this season in which WVU’s highest scorer was a bench player. Against Northern Iowa, Ohio State and Texas Tech. McBride led the Mountaineers in scoring despite starting the game on the bench. The other instance was when usual starter Derek Culver scored 25 against Rhode Island.
For context, the most bench points that an opponent has scored against West Virginia this season was 28 by Northern Iowa. WVU’s bench has scored more than 28 points 11 times already this year.
The entire West Virginia team will be back in action Saturday afternoon when the team travels to Manhattan, Kanas to take on Kansas State at 2 p.m.