Despite loss, Bridges steps up in Sherman’s absence

Gold and Blue Nation

Fairmont native lifts WVU offense in late rally after spending hours in the gym

Bob Huggins has waited for Jalen Bridges to show more aggression on the court after the sophomore’s slow start to the season.

He got just that in Austin as his team lost to No. 17 Texas — Bridges led the WVU offense with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting, hitting four three-pointers and grabbing six rebounds. His boost was much-needed, while WVU’s top scorer, Taz Sherman, was undergoing COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

“Obviously, Taz, he puts the ball in the hoop at a very high level, and without him, that’s a huge drop-off in our scoring,” Bridges said. “So today I kind of tried to take initiative. Step up for my team, make plays and try to be aggressive to the best of my abilities.”

His 18 points injected life into WVU’s points load, but it came too late. WVU was already down by 19 halftime, but he did help the Mountaineers rally to outscore Texas in the second half.

In the big picture, Bridges showed what his fans and coaches have been waiting for all season. Huggins knew that he was bound to get it going sooner or later — the Fairmont native has taken the criticism in stride and turned it into hours of practice.

“JB is good,” Huggins said. “I think he struggled because he wasn’t making shots. He spent time in the gym, and he’s been making shots in practice. And he obviously made shots tonight.”

WVU now has a week to go until its next contest after the postponement of its next scheduled game against TCU on Monday. The Mountaineers next face Kansas State in Morgantown, but Sherman’s status (as well as that of Gabe Osabuohien and Kobe Johnson, who both missed the game due to COVID-19 protocols) is still in the air for the Big 12 home opener.

When Sherman does return, though, Bridges will look to get his game going alongside the returning guard — who Huggins called “the best player in the league.”

“I feel like this will give me a lot more confidence moving forward, especially continuing conference play,” Bridges said. “So when Taz and Gabe and Kobe and all them are back, I feel like we’ll really get things rolling.”

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