MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Whether it be for successfully preparing his players, or for simply keeping his sanity for so long, WVU interim head coach Josh Eilert deserved his postgame Gatorade shower.
The endless offseason is officially over, and WVU marked the nation’s first day of college basketball with a win.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Eilert’s postgame comments Monday night following the 67-59 win over Missouri State:
Taking in the moment
In his first [official] game leading the WVU men’s basketball program, Eilert welcomed almost two dozen family members behind the Mountaineers’ bench. He thought about how proud his dad – who died six years ago – would be to see him at this stage of his career.
After a tumultuous offseason that changed his life forever, he took a moment to slow down Monday night.
“I kept on hearing the same message [to] sit back and enjoy it, take in the moment [and] smile a little bit,” he said. “It’s hard to do. It’s easy to say, [but] hard to do. I can smile a lot better now. I kind of got that sense of relief, and got that first one under my belt.”
Tale of two halves
The emotions may have gotten the best of his players too, and WVU started about as slow as it could have to open the season. The Mountaineers shot 4-for-32 from the field (13%) in the first half, and missed their final 21 shots before the first buzzer.
“I told them [that] there’s no way you can shoot it any worse than that,” Eilert said.
Their last nine points of the half all came from the free throw line, and they trailed 30-24 at halftime.
“We had guys breaking out of our offense,” Eilert said. “…Sometimes [with] a little frustration and a little ball pressure, they think they’ve got to put their head down and drive it, when in reality, a lot of times the pass is the best option.”
Coming out of the second half, the Mountaineers made each of their first five shots to retake its lead from early in the first half.
After five sloppy turnovers in the first half, WVU turned the ball over just twice in its successful second half, one of which came on a shot-clock violation.
“We really took care of the ball,” Eilert said. “I always tell these guys [if we] keep it under nine [turnovers], we’re in good shape.”
Forward Quinn Slazinski was the only WVU player with multiple turnovers Monday night.