Shots From The Field Fall From All Angles As WVU Dusts Off Iowa State
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — All season, Bob Huggins has been waiting for his West Virginia basketball team to start making shots, but it just wouldn’t happen.
Then, Iowa State came to the Coliseum on Wednesday night and everything WVU threw at the basket — save for a free throw — went in.
At halftime, the Mountaineers were shooting 59.3 percent and by the time they put the finishing touches on a 76-61 victory that raised their record to 18-4, they had cruised home with a 50 percent shooting night.
Of course, they were on cruise control at the end, scoring only six points over the last 6:10 of the game.
Some of them were almost trick shots they tossed at the basket, but they went through.
Why, Huggins was asked, on some nights you can’t hit from a foot away and on other nights it’s like a magnet attracts the ball to the hoop?
“I got some national attention for saying this before,” Huggins began, “but basketball is like your girlfriend. If you don’t pay any attention to her, she won’t like you. The more you pay attention, the more she is going to like you.
“The more those things are going to happen because you treated it the right way. If you don’t pay any attention to your girlfriend for a week, she might find someone else. That’s what happens. Guys don’t come in the gym, they don’t make shots.
“I do honestly think the more you are regular about paying attention, the better you play.”
Well, this was like TV’s old “Dating Game” because WVU was hitting everything it threw at the rim.
You knew it was going to be one of those days when Jordan McCabe, who had been having all kinds of trouble shooting this season and came into the game shooting just 27.4 percent from the floor, hit the game’s first shot from the corner.
From that moment on, it was a stream of made baskets – and, yes, missed free throws, for the Mountaineers also shot 50 percent from the free throw line.
When they went to the locker room with a 41-27 lead this team that was shooting 43.6 percent as a team for the year was hitting at 59.3 percent, 16 of 27 attempts.
And it wasn’t just that they were going in, it was how they were going.
On two consecutive possessions, Derek Culver burned with a right-handed and then left-handed hook shoot, leaving defenders thinking ‘What do you do to guard this guy?’
Then Emmitt Matthews Jr., who had slowly been coming out of a slump that saw him hit just seven of 32 field goal attempts over nine games, buried an early three, giving WVU a five-for-five start from the floor and an 18-6 lead.
Why has Matthews game suddenly turned around? Huggins knows why.
“He’s spent a lot of time trying to fix what was broken [in his game],” Huggins said. “He put in a lot of time and it was good work.”
But the fun was just starting. Matthews missed a 3-pointer but Oscar Tshiebwe was there for the rebound, passed the ball to Matthews who made a nifty return pass for an easy lay in for the big forward from the Congo.
Moments later, the ball came to Tshiebwe again but this time he lost his balance. In no position to shoot or pass and about to walk as he slipped, he threw the ball up toward the backboard.
It banked in.
“Coach told me you got to shoot,” Tshiebwe said. “He saw me working in the gym and he told, you get the ball there and you got to shoot it.”
Then came the game’s most uncanny shot and it came from 3-point range by Chase Harler, who has been doing a lot of big time things lately.
First he tried a three and it was blocked but he hustled after it, got it back, kept it in play, got the ball returned to him from McBride and he launched it toward the hoop.
The ball went halfway down the cylinder, spun back up, went around a second time, seemed about to spin out, then rolled one more time around and dropped through.
“I did that on purpose,” Harler said, trying to keep a straight face. “I kind of just wanted the crowd to watch shot go round and round. I’m a crowd pleaser.”
In the second half WVU showed it hadn’t used up all its magic as they built the lead past 20 points.
With about seven minutes to left to play Taz Sherman took a long 3-pointer with the shot clock clicking down. The ball came off crazily and while Tshiebwe went for it he didn’t seem to have any chance to get it.
Somehow, however, he used one of his long arms to tip it back to himself in a position when he could go up unopposed for a dunk that gave him 16 points in the game.
“I go for every rebound,” Tshiebwe said. “Even though I am not going to get it, I go for it. When you try a lot maybe get some easy ones that people don’t think you will try for.”
As it was, the ball went in enough that five players reached double figures – Tshiebwe had 16 points on seven of nine shooting with 10 rebounds, Harler had 14 points, Derek Culver and Matthews had 12 and Jermaine Haley had 11. Haley also had seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and held Tyrese Haliburton, the Iowa State top scorer, to 12 points.
WVU returns to the court on Saturday to play at Oklahoma in a 2 p.m. game.