WVU Tops Western Kentucky In Crossover Classic Championship

West Virginia guard Taz Sherman sails past a WKU defender for a lay-up

West Virginia overcame a 10-point second half deficit to drive away with a 70-64 victory over Western Kentucky in the championship game of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic Friday afternoon.

The Mountaineers opened their 2020-21 season with a three-game sweep of the tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

WKU took the runner-up trophy and left the Sanford Pentagon with a 2-1 record, having defeated Northern Iowa (93-87) and Memphis (75-69) in the tournament’s first two rounds.

“Congratulations to West Virginia. That’s why they are one of the better teams in the country,” said Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury, whose club faces Louisville on Tuesday. “They present so many problems through 40 minutes of the game, and through 40 minutes they were better than us today.”

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The two combatants volleyed back and forth through much of the first half, as they exchanged the lead 12 times and were tied five times.

Eventually the Hilltoppers moved in front 29-28 at the 3:09 mark on a Taveion Hollingsworth jumper and maintained that lead for the remainder of the first half, taking a 36-33 advantage into the lockerroom at the break.

Foul trouble hampered West Virginia’s big men in the opening stanza. Derek Culver played 12 minutes while recording just four points and failing to pull down a rebound because he was saddled with two personals. Oscar Tshiebwe picked up two quick fouls himself and thus was limited to just five first half minutes, where he had a mere three points and no rebounds.

Without a board from their two post players, the Mountaineers trailed WKU in the rebounding department at halftime, 15-14.

West Virginia’s coach didn’t like much about what he saw in the first half and demanded better effort in the second half.

“It was either that or walk home,” smirked Bob Huggins in the postgame.

“Actually, I think we took some things for granted. They played so much harder than we did, and they executed better than we did,” he said. “We talked at halftime about how much harder we had to play and how much better we had to execute.”

Initially that halftime speech didn’t pay dividends, as things went from bad to worse for West Virginia in the opening few minutes of the second half.

After making its first shot of the period, WVU missed five straight field goal attempts and also had two turnovers, leading to a 9-0 ‘Topper run and a 45-35 Western lead.

WKU’s double-digit bulge quickly slipped away, though, as a flurry of Hilltopper turnovers and missed shots led to a West Virginia charge that left the Mountaineers with a 55-52 advantage at the 8:10 mark after a Taz Sherman 3-pointer.

“I thought the tempo got away from us after we got the lead in the second half. We had three turnovers in four trips that changed the tempo of that game,” noted Stansbury.

West Virginia forward Oscar Tshiebwe (back) goes up for a block against WKU’s Kenny Cooper

WVU eventually stretched its run to 18-2 and its lead to 59-52 before Western Kentucky’s Luke Frampton, who is a native of Poca, West Virginia, knocked down a three to stem the Mountaineer sprint. The former Dot finished with six points, hitting two of five 3-point attempts.

Frampton’s second half trey only momentarily slowed WVU, though, as Culver followed with a contested jump hook in the lane and then Sean McNeil buried a 3-pointer from the wing. Suddenly a Mountaineer team that trailed by 10 earlier in the half enjoyed a 64-55 lead at the 3:57 mark.

Western Kentucky had fight left, though, and narrowed WVU’s lead to 66-62, but the Mountaineers made all four of their free throws in the final 40 seconds to seal the victory.

Culver navigated his way through the second half with only one additional foul. He stayed on the floor for 17 of the period’s 20 minutes, and thus was able to lead WVU’s offensive charge, scoring 11 points in the half and 15 for the game. He did manage only one rebound, though. Tshiebwe finished with seven rebounds and five points.

McBride and Sherman both reached double figures in the scoring department for West Virginia with 14 and 12 respectively.

The Mountaineers outrebounded WKU by seven in the second half and thus had a 36-30 advantage on the boards for the game. Each team had 10 turnovers.

“For sure, there is not a team in the country that is as physical and as big and strong as West Virginia,” stated Stansbury, who was also the coach at Mississippi State when WVU beat the Bulldogs in the 2007 NIT semifinal on a Darris Nichols buzzerbeater, 63-62.

Friday the Hilltoppers’ own talented big man, Charles Bassey, who was limited in the first half by foul trouble himself – two points and one rebound in three minutes – also came on strong in the second half. He finished with a team-high 15 points and eight rebounds.

For the Mountaineers, the three games in South Dakota not only provided a Crossover Classic championship but also some valuable experience to start the season that faces so many questions because of the raging coronavirus.

“Everything was good,” said Huggins of his team’s stay in Sioux Falls. “We came in and practiced, and obviously played in three games. That was valuable.

“I thought the bubble was terrific, other than the guy manning door (at the Sanford Pentagon), who kind of got lost and left us out in the cold for a little while,” the veteran coach chuckled.

West Virginia (3-0) returns home for a short rest before heading back on the road for a trip to Indianapolis where it will meet No. 1 Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic on Wednesday. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m., and the game will be televised by ESPN.

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    West Virginia overcame a 10-point second half deficit to drive away with a 70-64 victory over Western Kentucky in the championship game of the Bad Boy
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    Two thoughts, Bassey is a pro player.  Excellent in the post.  WV shut down WKU  in the second half.  About half way thru, WKU just couldn’t score.  Nice win.  I think WKU and the Jackrabbits are very good teams.  VCU exposed WV weakness against pressure d.  Overall, very good tourney for WV to learn from.


    Huggs got a lot of practice tape to work with.  We passed up a lot of ways toget the ball inside.  We lost our man in the paint way too often.   Still don’t move without the ball.  Still can’t pass.


    Watched some of Gonzaga demolition of Auburn on Friday night. My alma mater has a tall order next Wednesday although I think it’s doable — but only if Culver, Oscar, 3-point shooters have their AAA games ready. If not, then I might qualify for AA. Be a great early test. WVU needs to prevent so many layup and rebound baskets by their opponents and learn to pass rather than dribble so much. I’m sure Huggins doesn’t need my help. Hall of Fame coach in waiting will figure it out. 


    This was an excellent tournament to play top mid-major squads.  All of which could be tournament teams.  Western Kentucky and South Dakota State are legit, VCU also very athletic, great 3 straight games to get a feel for what WVU needs to work on heading into Power 5 play.

    Couple of notes:

    WVU is making free throws.  This is the number 1 reason WVU beat Western Kentucky yesterday when you calculate the full stats of the game on offense.  15 of 19 from the charity stripe.

    Derek Culver is poised this year and I hope that continues.  His maturity is showing as a Junior and he’s completely dominant.  Went against perhaps the best big in the country next to Luka Garza and held his own.  His offense, footwork, and shot selection on the low block has been top notch.  He’s playing at a level the NBA scouts are excited about.

    Tshiebwe will get better, the quick fouls early are killer on any momentum.  Needs to learn to crank up the defense and aggression with timing of where we are in the game.  Two fouls in two minutes just crush your ability to do anything.

    Really need to figure out a strategy with more ball handling especially under pressure.  WVU showed weakness here, McBride needs some help (McCabe we need you to be special).

    Isaiah Cottrell will be legit, end of year he’ll be critical coming off the bench and I anticipate big time development as he gets more comfortable.

    Gabe Osabuohein – The unsung hero.  I love his attitude, desire, and intelligence off the ball.  The Dennis Rodman for WVU coming off the bench and just junk yarding teams with muscle and grind.  Also has developed some great moves on offense albeit WVU needs him to be a rock on defense (which he is) and intelligent with the ball on the high post.

    McNeil and Sherman, sharp shooters, they are the key to keeping us in games when the rest of the offense goes quiet.  If those two are off it’ll be even more critical for Matthews, Culver, and Tshiebwe to get there points.  McBride is McBride, I have a man crush, I think we all do.  Really wish McCabe could give us more when he comes in, there’s always hope.

    Still having a bit of a challenge getting back on transition defense.  If WVU wants to even be in the game against Gonzaga, they better be busting their butts getting back in transition.  The Zags devastated Kansas in this area, it will be no different.  Gonzaga is NBA caliber, probably could take on the Knicks and it’ll be very interesting to see how WVU handles such a talent.  Bill Self even suggested this is the best collegiate team he’s seen since the 38-1 Kentucky squad relative to talent and dominance.

    So far, I like what we see against the top level of mid-majors.  Bassey & Hollingsworth I’m still stunned they’re at Western Kentucky.  They both could be playing at any elite school and probably start.  Bassey is a lottery pick, reminded me of a young Patrick Ewing.

    Let’s Go Mountaineers!


    A few observations after the 1st 3 games, though not related to either how good, or bad, we are in various aspects of the play.

    Last year Halley, Harler, and Rout combined to average almost 47 minutes a game.  McCabe averaged 13.5 mpg.  So a total of over 60 mpg.

    After 3 games McCabe is averaging 10 mpg.  Not a big difference but it still means we have needed to find 50 mpg from other players.  The choices are more minutes from the returning players, new players supplying those minutes, or a combination of both.

    Huggins has decided to shorten his bench this early in the season in spite of the belief/hope that we have, perhaps, our deepest bench we have ever had.  That is, obviously, due to the fact we have already played 3 teams with a pulse, about to play what many are already anointing as one of the best college teams of all time, to be followed by a road game at Georgetown and, finally, a game against a lesser opponent in Robert Morris.  But that is the only breather.  We immediately follow that up with a game against Richmond.  They are a popular pick to either challenge or win the Atlantic 10 this season.

    Not counting McCabe our rotation has consisted of primarily 7 players.  Their mpg so far, along with their mpg from last year, are as follows:  McNeil (34.3/15), McBride (32/22.2), Culver (29.3/24.5), Sherman (22.7/13.1), Matthews (21.7/21.2), Tshiewbe (20/23.2), Osabuohien (18.3/18.3).

    Obviously the big difference is the increased roles of McNeil, McBride, and Sherman.  While they played together last year the times they would have been on the floor, all at the same time, with the returning players we still have, would not have been frequent.

    No exhibition game, no scrimmage, and no cupcakes to start.

    It was always going to take some time for our top 7 to develop some cohesiveness against competition that is not part of our own roster, let alone our top 10 or 12 against that competition.

    As with the football team we can either choose to enjoy the improvement process or focus on our lingering or continued deficiencies.


    That 7 man rotation seems to be getting along together on the floor better each game.  We still need to have McBride step up and become that elite PG we need to vie for the B12 crown.  That is the only piece IMO this team is missing.

    As time goes on we’ll see more of Kedrian, Jalen and Isiah.  Bobbleheads that have seen more of Kedrian than most think he could be a very good PG type.  This may be the 10 man rotation that Huggs is looking for toward the middle of the season.

    Quick observatiton.  Our FT’s are significantly better than LY.  Culver looks good at the line.  Some think Oscar’s form looks good.  Looks to me like he’s forcing it, but what the hell do I know.  After Huggs put the breaks on chucking up 3’s after the 1st game we settled down.  Sean and Taz have the green light always.  Deuce and Emmitt should have a caution light.  The rest should be put on hold.

    Derek needs to take that 12-18 ft shot ….. always.  Don’t even think about it, just take it. He’ll make a good % if he doesn’t think twice and just goes after it.

    Our TO’s are for the most part are good except……. for the VCU press game.  We looked like crap there.  Need to get the ball into ball handlers and move it quickly instead of trying to dribble thru the press.

    Still see little movement on the floor without the ball.  With few exceptions our guys stand there waiting for the pass instead of cutting thru and forcing them to guard us without the ball.  Wonder if we can get JB back in a consulting role to help Juwan with the O?  Juwan working with the PG’s and JB with the rest of the team forcing them to move without the ball.  How would you incorporate Huggs post up big man game with JB’s motion offense and Wanny’s PG floor director?  Is that too much to ask?  

    See the source image


    Disregard all of the below.  I just went back to the WVU Stats site and, while they show their +/- column adding up to the point differential of the game, when you add them up yourself they do not add up to the point differential.  They are way off.  They must not show some of the minus signs where they need to.  And all three games are off.  Would have thought they would be more attentive to the detail than that.  Perhaps just a sign of the times.

    Still would like to see what the real numbers are.

    Another interesting stat from our 3 games is the +/-.  I know Hugs is not a fan of that stat, and I do not think it is all that meaningful, but it likely is not completely worthless.  We can only be +26 as that is the cumulative total for our margin of victory for the 3 games.  For our seven primary players their +/- stats are as follows:

    McNeil +49, McBride +36, Culver +22, Sherman +29, Matthews -6, Tshiewbe +24, Osabuohien +10.  That adds up to +164.  That means McCabe, Bridges, Cottrell, Johnson, and Thweatt contributed -138.

    The above somewhat confirms the general impression that our newcomers were not very productive in South Dakota.  We are going to need minutes from them over the course of the season but they may not provide positive results until well into January or beyond.

    The other takeaways are that we need more production from Matthews, Gabe’s biggest contribution was against WKU (thats ok, it was a big game), and it appears we are a better team when Oscar is on the floor even if he himself is struggling with certain aspects of his game.

    Again, the +/- stat needs to be taken with a grain of salt but it probably does not need to be totally discounted.


    +/- is something that is very controversial.  Problem with that stat is that it depends way too much on who is on the court against you.

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Home Page forums WVU Tops Western Kentucky In Crossover Classic Championship

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