Jevon Carter Hit For 10 Points & A Career-Best 12 Assists Versus Fordham
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There’s a rhyme, reason and rhythm to Jevon Carter’s game that belies exactly why he’s so valuable to West Virginia.
Fordham was a perfect showcase of such. With the Mountaineer offense struggling to score against the 2-3 zone and needing better ball movement to create quality looks, Carter turned up his floor vision and passing for a career-best 12 assists. The senior started the contest with seven straight before he even scored his first points, meaning he had a literal hand in 16 of the Mountaineers first 21 points and seven of the first nine field goals without managing a mark in the points column.
It was nothing more than a feel for what the game required. With Carter doubled teamed on drives and Fordham packing the paint with three defenders, it was nearly impossible to attack the rim. The idea was to get thee ball to the middle, where the 2-3 is weakest, then distribute to the wings from there for solid shots. That’s exactly what Carter did while also getting to the line and adding another high-caliber defensive effort.
“That’s just how they were playing us,” said Carter, who snapped his previous high of nine assists set versus Kansas on Jan. 24 and matched against Pitt two weeks ago. “I try to make the right plays. Guys were open and I found them and they made shots.”
It’s that subtle understanding that makes Carter an elite player. When the point guard needs to score, as he did when not in foul trouble against Pitt or during the comeback versus Missuri, he can. When he needs to be a steadying force with games on the line or in the balance, he finds that controlled aspect that settles the team. And when he needs to play the very definition of a point guard, i.e. that of a distributor first, he can and does.
“That’s what good players do,” WVU head coach Huggins said. “Everybody has been trying to gap him, so they are guarding him with two players on penetration and quite frankly he hasn’t shot the ball nearly as well. If you are not shooting it as well and it doesn’t feel good coming off your hand and somebody is shooting it better, get them the ball. JC wants to win.”
It was, as Carter noted after, a strange game. Former West Virginia assistant and current Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer mixed defenses and got just enough in transition points via the three-pointer or getting to the line to hang in the game. Though the No. 10 Mountaineers (11-1) won by 17 points, that was the second-largest lead of the game. Most of the 40 minutes were spent in a steady game which saw the margin typically between seven and 10 points for the majority of the second half.
It wasn’t until Dax Miles hit a handful of key shots, including a pair of threes and a tip-in, that West Virginia surged to a 22-8 run over the final 6:51 to secure an 11th consecutive victory. But Carter was again a valued presence with the unusual double-double to go with five rebounds and three steals.
“I don’t play for assists; I play for wins,” Carter said. “It’s just going to come with the game. That’s just how the game was. It was kinda weird. It felt weird. It didn’t feel like we won by that much. They threw us off some (with the zone). They played kinda weird on D, but we found a way. We just play, honestly. We gotta go correct some things.”
Especially entering Big 12 play. Carter is averaging a team-best 18.2 points with 44 steals and 76 assists – meaning almost one-sixth of his season assists came in this game alone. That’s twice the season average. The senior is also playing more than 33 minutes, a figure which could increase starting with a two-game road trip to open conference play at Oklahoma State and Kansas State starting Dec. 29.
For his part, Carter said he was one of a handful of Mountaineers not headed home for Christmas.
“I’m staying here,” he said. “(The Big 12), it’s going to be a battle every night. There aren’t going to be easy games.”