Contributors, Justin Jackson, Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

COLUMN: WVU shows its a work in progress in 60-53 win over Oakland in opener

If there was a sign to be hung on West Virginia’s season-opening performance Tuesday night it would simply read: Work in progress.

Anything else would simply be short of the truth.

To be sure, there were plenty of highlights that came out of the Mountaineers 60-53 victory against Oakland inside the WVU Coliseum, but those good plays were surrounded by so many head-scratching moments that made you wonder what exactly it was you were seeing on the floor.

Gabe Osabuohien provided Osabuohien-like energy by drawing four offensive fouls, while leading WVU with nine rebounds.

Dimon Carrigan came up with a blocked shot that will likely be shown on the video board for quite some time, as he came out of nowhere to swat Jalen Moore’s lay-up attempt.

Taz Sherman supplied the offense, finishing with 18 points and his scoring will likely be the reason the Mountaineers are in any game this season.

Everything else seemed to be a comedy of errors.

By the time the game was just six minutes old, WVU had four fouls — all four were against its point guards, forcing both Kedrian Johnson and Malik Curry to the bench early.

At another point, Oakland had eight offensive rebounds, while the Mountaineers had nine total rebounds.

After Oakland grabbed three offensive rebounds on one possession, WVU head coach Bob Huggins was so livid, you sort of figured heads were literally going to roll right out of the Coliseum during a timeout.

“I don’t think I can say what I was thinking,” Huggins said.

Good enough.

Even an Oakland scoring drought that nearly reached seven minutes in the first half couldn’t truly be credited to stiff WVU defense, as Golden Grizzlies shooters had plenty of open looks during that time frame.

The point: If there were any thoughts that this season was going to be a seamless transition of outside shooting and big guys running in transition creating scoring opportunities, those thoughts should have been gone by halftime.

“We just have to be better,” Sherman said. “Including everything. I just don’t think we’re very good right now. When Big 12 play gets here, we can’t play like this or we’ll lose by 20.”

If nothing else, WVU proved that it’s really going to miss Deuce McBride and Derek Culver this season, with McBride providing steady play while running the show and Culver providing the dirty work down low.

The Mountaineers had neither against Oakland.

With seven minutes remaining, WVU’s three point guards combined for all of two assists. TWO!!

They had more passes land in the first row of the crowd than assists, not joking.

At that same point of the game, Oakland’s rebounding advantage was 38-27.

This was not Baylor or Kansas on the floor, which would make one feel a little more at ease about getting killed on the boards.

This was Oakland … of the Horizon League … which had all of 10 players on its roster … and finished 12-18 last season.
A work in progress, indeed.

Now, are things going to get better for the Mountaineers? Obviously that’s a hard yes.

Remember, this is opening night for a team with seven new guys who had never played a real game with most of their teammates.

The better question: Just HOW much better will things get?

A lot of that will depend on how much better the point guards get and how quickly all of these guys get comfortable in their roles.

At some point, you’d like to see both Sherman and Sean McNeil simply take control of the offense and force everyone else to get on that ride or risk falling off.

Sherman sees a different angle, though.

“I’d rather get my guys going now,” he said. “At the end of the day, we all know who is going to take the most shots, but I’d rather get (Jalen Bridges) going early and I want Isaiah (Cottrell) to get going early.

“I want those guys feeling comfortable before we get into league play. I don’t want to be taking 25 shots a game unless I have to.”

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