MORGANTOWN — Jalen Bridges logged a tad more than 500 minutes played last season over 28 games.
Throughout all of those minutes, the WVU forward blocked 12 shots.
A season later, Bridges has played in all five games for the Mountaineers (4-1), logged 136 minutes and has already blocked eight shots, a pace that could see him finish with around 50 blocks by the time the Big 12 tournament begins.
Has the Fairmont native suddenly become a student of the swat?
“In order to block shots, you have to have that ability and he’s got length,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “The other things is J.B. ends up guarding a lot of smaller guys just because a lot of people are playing three guards. We’re not playing three guards. He’s our third guard, basically, but he’s really a small forward. If he’s guarding smaller guys, he’s going to have the opportunity to block shots for sure.”
WVU will enter Friday’s game against Eastern Kentucky (5-1) second in the Big 12 in blocked shots at 6.4 per game.
That is a complete turnaround from last season, when the Mountaineers were near the bottom in the Big 12 averaging 2.8 blocks per game.
The difference, so far, has been Bridges and Dimon Carrigan, who has blocked 10 shots.
Carrigan is a fifth-year senior transfer from Florida International who Huggins grabbed out of the transfer portal. He ranked second in Conference USA last season with 60 blocks.
“We purposefully went out and tried to get some guys who could block shots,” Huggins said. “D.C. was one of, if not the best, shot blockers in the country a year ago. What you have to factor in was the level he was playing at then and the level he’s playing at now. Pauly (Paulicap) blocked a lot of shots at DePaul last year.
“We need those guys to be able to do what they did at another level at this level.”
WVU players giving back to the community
Before WVU players celebrate Thanksgiving with a team meal at the WVU practice facility Thursday, they will be serving meals to those in need today.
Players will be at the Hope Cafe (in the old Ramada Inn in Morgantown) in conjunction with The Salvation Army in an effort to give back to the local community.
“We all thought it was a great thing for our guys to do and see,” Huggins said. “I think for the most part, our guys enjoy have enjoyed doing it. They feel good about being able to go out into the community and help the community. Honestly, they like being around each other, which is a plus.”
Gabe being Gabe
Gabe Osabuhien’s versatility was on display in last Sunday’s win against Clemson.
The 6-foot-7 forward flew all around the floor, as the Mountaineers tried to create pressure through its defense, which forced 20 turnovers.
He also led the Mountaineers in rebounding (7) and assists (4).
The key, Huggins said, was that Osabuohien was able to stay on the floor without fouling.
Osabuohien played 23 minutes against Clemson and played 24 minutes in the season opener against Oakland.
In WVU’s other three games, he’s committed at least four fouls and he fouled out in the loss against Marquette after playing 17 minutes.
“The most important thing is Gabe was in the game,” Huggins said. “He’s been in foul trouble constantly. We’re working on keeping him in the game longer and keeping him in critical situations.”