Last Friday night our West Virginia Mountaineers took on the Akron Zips where they managed to come out with a win 94-84. It was a pretty good outing for West Virginia, however they could’ve looked better on the defensive end of the floor. We allowed the Zips to get ten three pointers while shooting 32% behind the arc. Their ability to hit shots from deep is what kept Akron in the game all night, that and the fact we only beat them by one in the rebounding column (37-36). What is going to be this Mountaineers biggest struggle on the defensive end is just the youth in general. McCabe and Culver started all of last season but Matthews and Haley were in and out of the starting rotation, until Huggs cleared house anyway and Oscar is obviously a true freshman. The talent is most definitely there so I’m going to say by the end of this season with Coach Huggins getting all over everyone’s ass this team will be able to defend like no other.
On the positive side we’ve actually got some scorers on this team which is a gigantic change of pace compared to the past few years. In all actuality we’ve completely switched from what we were even to season ago which was a tough and gritty, defense first, “Press Virginia” that struggled to score. Fast forward to now and we’ve got all kinds of talent and pure scorers on the court that will just have to grow into being a solid defensive unit. Even with the small defensive issues this season looks very promising. We did manage to shoot well from the floor 48% to be exact, and also shot well from the free throw stripe (31-40). WVU also managed to shoot a pretty clean 38.5% from long range and even though it was only on 13 shots, they were all good looks and only had one or two that were just out of necessity. I’ll trade good looks from behind the arc for pure volume of shots all day.
Breaking down individuals performances. Derek Culver is arguably the best player on our team and even though he and Haley were our leading scorers with 16 points he only shot 4-15 from the floor. Culver has the uncanny ability to get murdered under the rim with no foul call so I won’t blame the bad shooting performance solely on his shoulders, he just seemed a bit out of rhythm. As the season goes on look for him to get his touch back and as he gets in better shape he’ll produce more on the boards. This guy was a glass eater last year and only managed 7 rebounds in last Fridays game, look for that to change quickly. McCabe and Tshiebwe had a tough first night as the two of them combined barely got 20 total minutes. Huggins said in his post-game interview “Jordan came here to pass the ball and he didn’t pass the ball, Oscar came here to rebound and he didn’t rebound”. Even though I trust Huggins and his judgement completely I’ve always felt he was a little too quick to take Jordan out. The kid has not ever really gotten the chance to get into the flow of the game because of Huggs’ quick trigger to pull him. However that does show me that Coach Huggins expects a lot from McCabe and cares a lot about his performance on the floor. I’m just hoping he gets a longer leash as the season goes. In Oscar’s case it is his very first game and just knowing that the raw talent this guy has it’ll be almost impossible to keep him off the floor, we’re all expecting big things out of Big O this season.
Since McCabe spent so much of the game riding the pine it forced Knapper and Harler into a pretty good amount of minutes and they both looked very under control and shot the ball well in their time on the floor both scoring 9 points. Routt also performed well in Oscar’s absence and came up with a HUGE block at the end of the game in transition that would’ve gave the Zips a chance to cut it down to 6. A couple of other new comers in the program are Taz Sherman and Miles “Deuce” McBride. Both are pure scorers and have really smooth shots. McBride had a very impressive stat line of 11 points, 6 boards, 4 assists, and 4 steals, and 1 very loud block from behind in transition. Taz managed 8 points in his time on a good 3-7 clip from the floor, his scoring looks very natural and he has an uncanny ability to create his own shot. Those two remind me a lot of the combo of Tarik Phillip and Jaysean Paige. Last but certainly not least Emmitt Matthews. Emmitt had a very solid performance with 13 points and 7 boards. He managed to score efficiently with a 4-7 performance from the floor which included 3-5 from downtown (yet some dumb ass analysts think he can’t shoot). I believe that Emmitt is going to be a huge player for us this season and could end up being the key guy on the team.
All in all not a bad night for the first game but this team has so much potential I can’t wait to see where Huggy bear takes them this season. We’ve got a big game this coming Friday against Pitt, hopefully we pack their arena and hand them a good old fashion ass kicking. The experts have Pitt at a 60% chance to win this game but judging by the fact that they just took a fat L to Nicholls. Believe it or not that’s a school, I think the Mountaineers are going to be proving a lot of people wrong Friday. I’m excited for this season and need to get the taste of this football season out of my mouth. Let’s do some damage to Pitt on Friday. As always Lets Go Mountaineers, and EAT SHIT PITT.