Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

NOTEBOOK: Sean McNeil gets hot in second half of WVU’s win vs. Youngstown State

MORGANTOWN — Sean McNeil credited Youngstown State’s defense as the reason why he was held scoreless and only attempted one shot in the first half on Wednesday.

That all changed in the second half, as McNeil rattled off 23 points to lead the Mountaineers to an 82-52 victory over the Penguins in front of 9,784 fans inside the Coliseum.

“They were physical out of the gate,” McNeil said. “In the second half, I saw the first one go in. For shooters, that’s just confidence, so I continued to shoot.”

McNeil’s play helped turn a possible upset — WVU only led 24-23 at the half — into a 30-point blowout.

The senior guard has gone on hot streaks like this before.

During the Charleston Classic last month, McNeil was held scoreless in the first half against Clemson, only to come out and score 15 points in a 13-minute stretch to lead WVU past the Tigers.

“That’s why I don’t really stress if I don’t get up a certain number of shots or have a bad half,” McNeil said. “I would like to be consistent, but Ijust wasn’t getting a whole lot of looks in the first half. I credit my teammates, they found me in the second half.”

It was the first time this season McNeil scored more than 20 points in a game and the sixth time in his WVU career.

Back to the press

WVU head coach Bob Huggins admits he was hoping to hold off full-court pressing against Youngstown State, which is coached by Jerrod Calhoun, a former assistant at WVU under Huggins.

But, as the Mountaineers slugged their way through an ugly first half, Huggins felt he needed to give his players a jolt of energy.

Out came the full-court press that forced 11 turnovers in the second half. WVU finished with 22 points off of those 11 turnovers.

“I don’t know why Huggs doesn’t do it more,” Calhoun said. “It’s their mentality. (Kedrian) Johnson is one of the best defenders I’ve seen. He’s really the head of the snake.”

As for what Huggins told his players at halftime:

“Summed up, if you don’t want to play, stay in the locker room. If you want to play, come out and join us,” McNeil said about Huggins halftime speech. “We had some guys figure it out and we won. That’s summed up into the G-rated version.”

News and notes

WVU held its sixth consecutive opponent under 60 points. The last time that happened was the 2009-10 Final Four season.

WVU’s 11-1 start is its best since also going 11-1 in the 2019-20 season. WVU finished 21-10 that season before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the season.

Speaking of COVID-19, the virus continues to force cancellations throughout college basketball.

The Big 12 amended it’s COVID-19 policy Wednesday, stating that it will no longer force a team to forfeit a conference game if it is unable to meet the requirements of at least six available players.

The league said it will attempt to reschedule any league games that are postponed, rather than simply having one team forfeit.

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