MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University basketball fans got their first look at the Mountaineers much-hyped batch of newcomers to the roster Friday at the Gold-Blue Debut scrimmage, and the results were a mixed bag.
The Gold team, wearing gray practice uniforms, defeated the Blue team 67-54 with assistant coaches Erik Martin and Ron Everhart coaching on the benches while WVU head coach Bob Huggins watched from the scorers table.
It was a different vantage point than Huggins usually has, but that didn’t change the veteran coach’s ability to assess what he saw on the floor from the Mountaineers on Friday.
“We’ve got multiple guys that can score, I think that’s good,” Huggins said. “We probably defended better today than we defended in practice, and that’s good. We throw it around too much, but we throw it around in practice — 14 turnovers and 11 turnovers. We can live with 11, 14 is too much.”
Highly-touted true freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe, playing for the Blue team, made his WVU Coliseum debut, and despite having his first dunk attempt blocked by the front of the rim, he had a pretty good showing. Tshiebwe finished Friday’s scrimmage with 15 points and 11 rebounds to go with two assists and two blocks, but he also turned the ball over four times. He was paired with sophomore forward Derek Culver, a unanimous All-Big 12 Freshmen Team selection last season, on the Blue team, and despite that the Gold team was able win the rebounding battle 34-31.
“The Blue [team] gets out-rebounded — how do you get out-rebounded when you’ve got Derek and Oscar on the same team?” Huggins asked. “Oscar held his end up with 11. Derek getting three — that’s not good enough. Although he missed enough, if he rebounded his own shots he might have had more than three.”
Junior guard Taz Sherman, a junior college transfer new to the team this season, led all scorers Friday with 18 points for the Gold team, including a 4-of-6 mark on 3-pointers. Fellow junior college transfer Sean McNeil also showed off his range, connecting on 2 of 4 attempts from behind the arc.
A lack of shooting was one of the things that helped doom last season’s Mountaineers, and Huggins said bringing in Sherman and McNeil were moves designed specifically to improve West Virginia’s shooting.
“I thought they were [our best shooters] when we recruited them,” Huggins said. “I think they are our two best shooters.
“Taz can shoot it. You get 26 [points] a game in the league he played in and you can score. He’s usually a lot better in the post. He missed a lot of shots — he shot a lot of fade-aways that he doesn’t normally take. He takes some, but they’re generally a littler better shot. A little closer.”
Forward Gabe Osabuohien, a transfer from Arkansas listed at 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds who is awaiting word on an eligibility waiver from the NCAA, was solid in his WVU debut with seven points and eight rebounds to go with four assists, one block and one steal.
“Huge boost,” Huggins said of Osabuohien. “He’s like that every day. He plays really hard every day. He handles the ball and passes it really well for a big. He’s active, he’s really active.”
Joining Sherman in double-figure scoring for the Gold team on Friday were true freshman guard Miles McBride with 11 points, senior swingman Jermaine Haley with 15 and senior forward Logan Routt with 12. Culver and Tshiebwe were the only Blue team players to hit double digits in scoring with McNeil and sophomore Emmitt Matthews both finishing with eight points.
West Virginia opens its exhibition schedule at home on Nov. 1, a Friday, against Duquesne.