Beetle shows toughness in win vs. Texas 94

It was just six days ago that WVU men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins pleaded for toughness out of his players.

His team of blue-collar workers had gone soft in losing large second-half leads — and then games — against Kansas and Texas Tech.

No one, especially basketball players, likes to be called soft or have their toughness card pulled.

To a guy like WVU guard James “Beetle” Bolden, he’d rather … well, he’d almost rather be dead than to be called soft, as crazy at that may seem.

“He’s a tough little guy,” Huggins said of Bolden, who is listed at just 6-foot and 170 pounds on the team’s roster.

And this isn’t to say Bolden is going around challenging everyone to a showdown at the O.K. Corral.

It’s only to point out that Bolden has enough heart and passion and toughness for a man who is 7-2, 250 pounds.

That’s what was on display during WVU’s 86-51 victory against Texas, on Saturday, in which Bolden played a major role by scoring 19 points.

In truth, Bolden probably shouldn’t have played at all in the second half, not after pulling his groin muscle in the first half.

“I knew if there was any way he could play, he would,” Huggins said.

Bolden said he actually first pulled his groin two weeks ago. Against Texas, he took some contact from Longhorns’ guard Kerwin Roach II and “tried to stop myself and made it worse,” he said.

He went into the locker room after already knocking down three 3-pointers for treatment.

The official word came out at the start of the second half that Bolden’s return was questionable.

Questionable, that is, to everyone not associated with the Mountaineers’ program.

“I knew he was going to come back out,” WVU forward Esa Ahmad said with a smile. “You’re not keeping Beetle out. He’s too tough for that.”

WVU point guard Jevon Carter, who was maybe WVU’s top gun on this night with 22 points and eight assists, was also asked about Bolden’s return.

“Who? Beetle?” Carter started. “Beetle is always hurt. He always comes back.”

And it’s one thing to come back and play, which Bolden did exactly that, while limping slightly and running a little gingerly.

It’s a whole other deal to be hurting in that particular area that Bolden was hurting and still shoot 3 of 4 in the second half from the floor, including two 3-pointers that helped put the dagger in Texas’ back.

“I was just being resilient,” Bolden said. “I didn’t want to quit on my team, because I knew I was hitting shots. I knew I was playing good defense and all of that. I wanted to come back and give my team the same energy I had before.”

Bolden’s toughness goes far beyond this pulled groin. He’s the team leader in charges taken, which basically means his 170-pound frame is run over by guys twice his size sometimes on their way to the basket.

It is a role that he takes on without second thought. His team comes first, his body second.

And then he pours in a bunch of 3s on the other end of the court.

Not the worst gig — get run over and them make some 3s — and it does make Bolden popular among his teammates.

“Beetle is tough,” Ahmad said. “We knew he was hurt, but that never stops him. It never did before.”

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