Routt’s Energy Injection Sparks WVU In CBI Opener
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sometimes you watch a basketball game and think you know what you are watching, as it was almost certainly was with the 5,313 fans who watched West Virginia create an entirely new identity in the second half of Wednesday night’s 77-63 victory over Grand Canyon in the opening game of the CBI at the Coliseum.
What impressed them most was the way the Mountaineers became a wide open, fast-break team that ran the Antelopes ragged through the second as Jermaine Haley went coast to coast more often than Delta Airlines, receiving pass after pass from Jordan McCabe and Chase Harler.
And when he wasn’t putting in his 24 game-leading points, Harler was making key shots and Emmitt Matthews was pushing his way to the rim or Derek Culver was hauling in 10 more rebounds.
All of that was SportsCenter stuff, although SportsCenter probably hasn’t heard of the CBI.
With all that, the key to the game well may have come from a most unexpected source and, normally, overlooked source — Logan Routt.
Now to say that in a game like this, a player who had two baskets, five points, five rebounds, two assists and three blocks was the key to victory is probably overstating it, but the 6-11 Routt performed his stuff at key moments.
Take the closing minute of the first half, right after Culver dunked to tie the score at 30.
The ‘Lopes got a close-in shot on the next possession only to have Routt go up and not only block it, but do a Konate, knocking it into the cheap seats, as if to say, “Not on my watch, son.”
“He had three blocks,” noted Bob Huggins. “I don’t think he’s ever had that many in game.”
Moments later WVU got a hustling steal from Chase Harler and went off and running on one of those fast breaks they’ve suddenly developed, only this one was different because Harler flipped the ball to the oversized Routt, who made like Jordan McCabe with a couple of dribbles.
“I thought I was going to have to shoot,” Routt said, who was near half court. “I looked up, saw the clock and there was only four seconds.”
But then he spied Haley dashing down the floor and made a pass that was as good as any he made as the world’s tallest quarterback back at Cameron, Haley ending the half with a slam to give WVU a 36-32 lead going into the locker room.
“I thought those two fast breaks at the end of the half got us started,” Huggins said.
WVU could not shake Grand Canyon through much of the early part of the second half, finding themselves trailing, 51-49, when Routt went up a made a difficult put back.
That was like a sip of Red Bull to Dana Holgorsen as it injected life into the stands and into the team, going off on a 19-2 run that put the game away.
“He brings energy every time he comes in, whether he plays two or 20 minutes,” Haley said.
“He’s a great kid,” Huggins said of Routt. “I wasn’t very happy with him Kansas City (at the Big 12 Tournament). He says, ‘Coach, keep on me, keep on me. I want to get better.’ It’s not a ‘Well, you’re picking on me kind of thing.’ It’s ‘Keep on me, keep helping me get better.”
That Huggins gladly does.
The fact is, this basketball team that now is 15-20 is getting better all the way around. They have now won five of their last eight, are shooting better, rebounding better, running better and with the running, passing better.
As much as they ran in this one, they had only 11 turnovers while having 13 assists.
The Mountaineers play next at 7 p.m. on Monday in the Coliseum against Coastal Carolina, which beat Howard, 81-72.