Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

West Virginia still hunting for consistent shooting

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Compared to last season, West Virginia’s shooting numbers are up across the board.

That is little consolation for WVU head coach Bob Huggins, who has been quick to note the Mountaineers inconsistencies this season.

“We recruited some guys to make shots and they haven’t made shots,” Huggins said. “They haven’t consistently made shots. Our returning guys haven’t consistently made shots.”

The Mountaineers shot 41.3% as a team and 31.6% from 3-point range during the 2018-19 season.

Those were the lowest numbers since 2014-15, which came with an asterisk, because that was the first season of the “Press” Virginia defense, which forced 678 turnovers and the team also led the nation in offensive rebounds.

In short, that team found a way to win 25 games by finding other ways to win despite not being great shooters.

The Mountaineers (7-1) did not have that in their first loss of the season, a 70-68 setback against St. John’s on Saturday.

“Emmitt Matthews has probably been our most consistent perimeter shooter and he didn’t come close to making one today,” Huggins said in New York. “You’re going to have days like that. I understand that, so you have to make up for it in other ways. We didn’t make up for it in other ways.”

West Virginia had hoped to fix its shooting woes by adding junior-college recruits Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman, both who shot 40% or better from 3-point range last season.

McNeil is beginning to show improvement. It was his 3-pointer that tied the game at 68 in the final minutes and he’s 12 of 27 (44%) from beyond the arc on the season.

“With each game, I feel more and more comfortable playing at this level,” McNeil said. “I was able to hit some shots late (against St. John’s), but I missed some earlier that I had some good looks at.”

Sherman has yet to find a confident stroke. He’s shooting under 28% from the floor.

The Mountaineers are ninth in the Big 12 in shooting at 42.7% as a team. They have offset for the most part by holding its opponents to just 36.4 shooting, which leads the conference.

WVU freshman Miles McBride said he had no quick answer as to why the Mountaineers aren’t shooting better — “I wish I could tell you,” he said. “ but also said it’s not always on who is shooting the ball.

He said it’s up to the player making the pass to do a better job of getting the ball to the right spot.

“Bad passes are a part of it,” McBride said. “We’re not hitting the shooter right in the chest, so guys aren’t stepping in to shots.

“We’re better at that in practice. Guys knock down shots in practice. I’m not sure what happens (in a game).”

TWEET @bigjax3211