WVU’s total team effort leads to game-changing runs

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Courtesy: Dale Sparks

They say basketball is a game of runs. That was especially true in No. 8 West Virginia’s 2-0 week.

On Friday, the Mountaineers were down at the half vs. North Texas and used an 18-0 run to start the second en route to the 12-point win. Sunday, it was a 29-10 run. That’s how WVU ended the first half against then-No. 19 Richmond, and it never looked back, winning 87-71.

There was plenty to like from the Gold and Blue against the Spiders — momentum-shifting three-pointers, highlight-reel dunks, aggressive boards, five players in double-figure scoring. Coach Huggins said a total team effort made all those plays possible, and that was the difference-maker.

“We need to play a whole lot more together and during that run, I thought we did,” Coach Huggins said. “Deuce (McBride) knocked the ball loose, but Derek (Culver) got hard rebounds and Oscar (Tshiebwe) made tough baskets inside. Deuce was good on the offensive end, as well. Taz (Sherman) hit a shot in transition, that was huge to get us going. Huge. I thought that was a team thing and hopefully, it carries over the rest of the year.”

Those plays were sure fun to watch and encouraging to see as the Mountaineers showed just how dominant they can be this season when they are clicking on all cylinders. The more the shots went in, the more the energy flowed from the sideline, and that cycle continued to repeat itself. McBride hits a three, the bench erupts. A big man dunk, the towels flying through the air.

It didn’t take much for players, on the bench or on the court, to get excited on Sunday, but Emmitt Matthews Jr. says this team needs to consistently create its own spark in order to keep those game changing plays coming, especially in empty arenas.

“One thing I think we need to work on as a team is talking from the sideline more. You know, we have no fans, so the only home advantage you have is your team talking,” Matthews Jr. said. “I think if we do more of that, there will be more moments where there is a big play and we will grow off of that play and make another one and another one, and we will just keep making plays until we are on a 12-0 run, 15-0 run.”

Having fun creating runs. That’s been the Mountaineer motto in two straight wins at the Coliseum. We’ll see if that can be a recipe for success in Big 12 play when it opens on Friday vs. Iowa State at 9 p.m.

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