MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — West Virginia men’s basketball topped Bowling Green 73-57 in a charity exhibition on Friday, giving Mountaineer fans their first public viewing of competition ahead of the 2022-23 season.
The Bob Huggins brand of Mountaineer basketball showed strong in the game as WVU’s defense and rebounding dominated the court. West Virginia held the Falcons to 30.8-percent shooting in the game, including a 24 percent mark from behind the arc, while out-rebounding the visitors by 18.
Huggins wasn’t satisfied with the win, however, and says his team will grow as the season progresses.
“I wanted to make sure that we played well enough to at least get the fans a little bit excited about our team,” Huggins said. “They deserve that.”
Here are the biggest observations from the charity exhibition:
The points come from the backcourt
WVU’s scoring display was dominated by the guards, namely Erik Stevenson. It’s easy to see why Huggins wants the transfer to shoot the ball as he led the game with 18 points as he showed an ability to score at all three levels.
Stevenson also added 10 rebounds for the double-double, plus a block and a steal on the defensive end.
Kedrian Johnson was right behind Stevenson on the stats sheet as the second player in the game to record double-digit points. Johnson earned his points by attacking the rim and getting fouled.
Luckily, he gave an encouraging sign to the Mountaineer faithful by finishing a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe. As a team, WVU shot 17-of-23 from the line.
Emmitt Matthews Jr. also added to the scoring in his first game back at the WVU Coliseum, adding 14 points as he found a rhythm in the second half.
…but, the well can dry up (like last year)
However, the Mountaineers did find some dry spells.
WVU got off to a fast start, scoring six points in the first two minutes. The Mountaineers then went scoreless for nearly five minutes as the Falcons slowly took the lead.
“I feel like we came out with less energy than we needed to for sure,” Matthews said.
In the game, WVU had four stretches of four straight misses or more, and six spells of two-plus scoreless minutes.
Part of those issues was not just missed shots, but ball security. The Mountaineers assisted on 10 of their 26 field goals but committed 19 turnovers.
That prevented WVU from putting the Falcons away. WVU didn’t lead by double digits until five minutes remained in the first half, and it led by 20-plus for just 20 seconds in the final minute of play.
“We played well in spurts,” Huggins said. “It’s hard when you’re subbing freshmen in and out of there and you’re trying to get guys playing time who deserve some playing time.”
What will the big man rotation look like?
Huggins went heavy on the size this season with four players standing over 6-foot-8.
Jimmy Bell Jr. got the start in the exhibition standing at 6-foot-10, but only played 13 minutes. Mohamed Wague, another 6-10 big who also stood out in the Gold-Blue Debut while battling with Bell, only played four more seconds than the starter. James Okonkwo edged them both out with 14 minutes.
Each one of those guys, as well as the additions of Tre Mitchell and Pat Suemnick, provide different strengths to the lineup, and Huggins indicated that the rotation is subject to change based on their matchup.
“I’m just trying to get them all to get to experience as many things as I can get them to have a look at,” Huggins said.
West Virginia opens its 2022-23 campaign on Nov. 7 when it hosts Mount St. Mary’s. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. ET.