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

COLUMN: Taz Sherman needs to step up as WVU’s go-to scorer when it needs him most

Taz Sherman’s final eight minutes on the TD Arena court was a mixture of confusion and frustration.

Welcome to the life of being the Mountaineers top offensive threat, Taz.

It’s a life where everything seems like it’s going so right one moment, only to have it go the other way in a blink of an eye.

Derek Culver and Deuce McBride shared this honor last season. They were the focal point of every defense WVU played.

Sherman, for right now, is carrying that badge of honor on his own, and for really the first time this season, an opposing defense’s focus on Sherman made a big difference in the game.

Marquette, which was predicted to finish ninth in the Big East and has an extremely young roster, came away with an 82-71 victory over the Mountaineers on Friday, in the semifinals of the Charleston Classic.

The Golden Eagles trailed by 12 points at halftime.

But, that’s when Marquette suddenly began to make every open 3-pointer from the corner it could find — believe me, there was an alarming amount of open corner 3-pointers on this night — grab all the rebounds and make all of the plays.

Among those plays was Marquette head coach Shaka Smart telling his younger players to not let Sherman out of their sight.

“I’m sure he had them all fired up,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said in his postgame radio interview. “How do you fire up a team that’s ahead by 12 points?”

Sherman blitzed the Golden Eagles in the first half for 14 points through a variety of pull-up jumpers, 3-pointers and drives to the basket.

Hardly any of those opportunities were there in the second half.

We get to the final eight minutes. Marquette has already erased that deficit and has taken a 64-60 lead.

This is the time when the leader steps up and takes charge.

This is the time when West Virginia as a team — especially considering the Mountaineers have a much older and game-experienced roster — is supposed to shake off the upset bid and actually act like it’s the older and mature team.

None of it happened.

Sherman’s final eight minutes saw him miss badly on an open lay-up attempt, which that moment is on him and not because Marquette’s defense answered the challenge.

In another moment, Sherman had a basket waived off by replay, when he couldn’t get the ball out of his hand fast enough to beat the shot clock.

Then, Huggins decided to post up Sherman in the paint to give Marquette a different look.

This move actually worked earlier in the second half, but this time Gabe Osabuohien drove the ball right into Sherman’s area rather than passing it to him.

It created a pileup and a turnover in the paint.

That’s not Sherman’s fault, but an example of just because you have older seniors doesn’t always mean they are going to make the right choices on the court.

“We draw up a set that got us back into the game against Oklahoma State in the conference tournament (last season,)” Huggins said. “The deal is you run in between two guys and then they close together and it becomes a screen for a shot. He ran around it … a senior … ran around it. I can’t explain that.”

Sherman’s only positive action in the final minutes was getting fouled on a 3-point attempt and he made all three free throws. By that time, Marquette’s lead was 76-71 with a minute to go.

Sherman finished with 21 points and five assists. Those stats look great, but could have been so much better.

To a point, the Mountaineers should have been so much better, too, but Sherman must realize he is now the man for WVU.

It’ll be his name drawn up on the opposing team’s locker room chalkboard.

That’s not always an easy life to live, but Sherman has got to find a way to be better down the stretch in games like this.

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