It has happened several times already in this young season. West Virginia's main offensive option, junior forward Devin Williams, picks up a few early fouls and is resigned to the bench for much of the first half.
It happened again last night against Marshall, but unlike last year, West Virginia is much more prepared to deal with this adversity because of the development of sophomore forward Elijah Macon.
The Columbus, Ohio, native underwent a transformation this off-season that has seen him slim down, speed his game up and turn into a very reliable second post option for Bob Huggins' Mountaineers.
“I really just approached this season making sure I was more prepared mentally to play more minutes, making sure I was one of the guys we can go to when we need to score the ball. That’s pretty much what I was doing all summer, and my confidence is growing with each game,” Macon said.
Macon has proven his worth already this year, and did so again last night, bringing energy off the bench with a couple thunderous dunks and making sure West Virginia kept its trend of domination against its in-state rival going for another year.
With Williams missing most of the first half after picking up his second foul, Macon said his main objective was to keep his teammates keyed in on the task at hand, while injecting some life into the arena with hustle plays.
“They got him out of the game early, so I just had to make sure I brought energy and make sure everyone else was into the game, just coming off the bench and making sure everyone’s into it,” Macon said.
Even without its leading scorer for much of the game’s first 20 minutes, West Virginia was able to run its offense the way it normally does with Macon in the game. Macon said his team doesn’t blink when Williams has to go to the bench because the looks the Mountaineers get from defenses with and without him on the floor are similar.
“I don’t feel like it changes too much, just because we both get doubled. We could be in the game at the same time and they’ll double both of us. It really doesn’t change. It just depends on who’s doing what and what they matchups are,” he said.
Even with Macon’s healthy stat line – he finished with 12 points, three rebounds and two assists – the Mountaineers led by just three at halftime against a team that always gears up to play them hard.
Macon said when he and his teammates headed to the locker room, they came out with the objective to prove something to their in-state rivals, and to everyone watching.
“We had our talk, our regular team talk, really to just go out and show everybody that we’re the same team. We actually can play basketball. The last couple of games we tended to come out lackadaisical in the second half,” he said.
That certainly didn’t happen last night, as the Mountaineers outscored the Thundering Herd 51-36 in the second half to turn a close game into a blowout.
After a hotly contested game against the Herd that was decided by a mere three points last year, Macon said he and his teammates watched the film of that game this week and were ready to make a statement about who the dominant team in the state really is.
“We had been watching it all week. We didn’t really take it well. We’ve been hearing things all week. We just came out ready to play. We were in attack mode,” he said.
With how quick referees have been with the whistle so far this season, this likely won't be the last time WVU needs him to step up, but the Mountaineers can now be confident that they have a reliable post option in Macon.