MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University men’s basketball team has yet to lose this season, but even with an unblemished 7-0 record, there have been ups and downs.
Despite the record, shooting has been a concern. The Mountaineers have been flat bad from 3-point range and the players veteran head coach Bob Huggins brought in to be the team’s shooters, as well as several returning players he expected to be better, have not been getting their shots to fall with regularity.
Take Taz Sherman, for example. Sherman came to WVU as a somewhat overlooked junior college prospect and instantly drew praise from Huggins for his ability to put the ball in the basket. The 6-foot-4 Missouri City, Texas, native averaged 25.9 points per game for Collins College last season and was a National Junior College Athletic Association Division I second team All-America pick. In seven games with the Mountaineers, Sherman is averaging 2.6 points per game while playing playing just under 14 minutes per contst. He made two 3-pointers in the Nov. 18 win against Northern Colorado in Morgantown, but has missed on every other long-range attempt this season sitting at just 2 for 12 in the seven games played. Sherman hasn’t been much better inside the arc, having made 5 of 17 2-point field goal attempts.
“He hasn’t made any shots,” Huggins said after WVU’s 86-81 win against Rhode Island on Sunday. “The good thing about playing close games is you get better — I think it makes you better. The bad thing is you can’t play other people as much as you want to play them. Taz is going to be fine, and Taz is somebody we can invert and start doing some things with, he’s just got to start making shots. He will. I don’t have any doubt.”
Sherman, a junior, hasn’t been the only one having a hard time taking the lid off the rim. Sean McNeil, another junior college transfer, hasn’t been quite as cold as Sherman so far this season but as a player identified as a legitimate 3-point threat prior to the season, his 8 makes in 20 attempts leaves a lot to be desired. There is also the case of sophomore point guard Jordan McCabe, who is 6 for 22 overall and 1 for 13 on 3-pointers.
Huggins, however, remains confident the shots will eventually start to fall for West Virginia, which is off this week until a Saturday game against St. John’s in Madison Square Garden (noon on FS1).
“[Sherman] and Sean are both going to start making shots,” Huggins said. “Jordan’s going to start making shots — Jordan hasn’t made shots. We’ve just struggled at guys we thought would be like they [Rhode Island] today. If we left them open, they made it. We had open shots and didn’t make them. We’re better than that. We’ve got to continue to work at it and continue to work with them. We’ve got to get them more time — we’ve got to get [Sherman] more time and we’ve got to get Sean more time.
PUT AWAY PROBLEMS: West Virginia struggled to put Rhode Island away on Sunday, with the Rams trailing by just one point with less than a minute to play, before making foul shots down the stretch to win by five. The Mountaineers have struggled to run away from teams several times during their unbeaten November, and Huggins noted his team’s inability to show a killer instinct so far this season.
“That’s what I talked about before the game,” Huggins said. “We haven’t really put anybody away. We didn’t put Akron away when we had the chance to put them away in the first game, and we just haven’t put anybody away.
“It’s a culture, I think, but we’ve got so many guys from so many different places right now. I think we’ll get there, because they are really good guys. They’re not going to fight you on it, it’s just a matter of continuing to work on it. It’s so much a game of repetition.”
WVU is among the teams receiving votes just outside the top 25 in this week’s Associated Press poll.
West Virginia is coming off a week which saw the Mountaineers beat Northern Iowa and Wichita State to win the Cancun Challenge in Mexico then returned home to hold off a pesky Rhode Island team on Sunday in the Coliseum. WVU received 28 points in this week’s poll and appeared on eight ballots with one voter having WVU as high as No. 20.
Asked Sunday if he thought the team should be ranked this week, Huggins said he didn’t care.
“I’d be happy for [the players], because that’s what they want, but at this point in time, I could care less,” Huggins said. “We’ve been really good and not ranked where we should be, and we’ve been not-as-good and ranked higher than we should be.”
West Virginia is behind Florida, Xavier, San Diego State, Saint Mary’s, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech among the teams in the “others receiving votes” list and ahead of Purdue, DePaul, Arkansas, Indiana, Penn State and Stephen F. Austin, Oklahoma, Liberty, Notre Dame, Richmond, VCU, SMU and Delaware.WEEKLY HONORS FOR OSCAR: Oscar Tshiebwe was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on Monday after averaging 12 points and 9.7 rebounds last week during the Mountaineers’ run to the Cancun Classic championship.
In the title game in Mexico, Tshiebwe finished with 19 points and 18 rebounds as West Virginia beat Wichita State. This is the second time in the first three weeks of the college basketball season that the WVU freshman has won this honor from the conference.