There's nothing new in the fact that West Virginia's bench piled up a big scoring advantage on the way to another win. The Mountaineer reserves piled up a 35-18 advantage over the Cowboys, and were it not for Joe Burton, who lost his mind by hitting six of ten shots, including a pair of threes, it would have been a near shutout. What's more notable, though, is that the backups, along with three of the starters, came up with key plays at important moments to either rally WVU or help it maintain control of the game. A look back also reveals that out of each of those individual blocks of contributions, a strong edifice was constructed.
When evaluating those contributions, we also might be on the way to disposing of the terms "starter" and "backup" for this West Virginia teams. One of its first five out, Esa Ahmad, played just seven minutes, while bench players accounted for 118 of the total 200 minutes. Again, that's been the norm over the past few contests, as head coach Bob Huggins has rolled out a different substitution pattern, but where it paid off against OSU is that just about everyone up and down the lineup had some contributions.
Some of those are obvious. Devin Williams' 13th double-double of the season and Jaysean Paige's 17 points stand out, but that's just the visible part of the iceberg that continues to sink opponents below the waterline. Jevon Carter, who admittedly continues to struggle with his shot from the field, came up with a big 3-pointer at the first half buzzer to put the Mountaineers up by four. That swish was a big one from a momentum standpoint, as it rescued WVU from a stinky stretch of play in which it saw the Cowboys go out to an eight-point lead.
It also served to kick-start WVU in the second half, as the Mountaineers opened with an 11-2 run to move out to a 13-point lead. Oklahoma State never got closer than seven the rest of the way.
Also notable was Teyvon Myers, who continues to take small steps of improvement. Plaing with bounce and ebullience, the junior college transfer was on the floor for 11 minutes, scoring seven points while grabbing a rebound and a steal. He didn't have a turnover, and played solid defense to help WVU's press get off to a great start, in which it forced 13 first half turnovers.
"He's making shots, and like I said before the game, Jaysean and Tarik [Phillip] and Teyvon are all roomates, and they are spending an enormous amount of time in the gym," head coach Bob Huggins said on the IMG postgame radio show. "There's no substitute for hard work, and some guys are finding that out the hard way. I dont believe in giving people things for free. When we have guys in there every day doing what they are supposed to do, and putting in the extra work, when you look down the bench, which ones are you going to put in?"
While technically Myers isn't on the bench at the start, the theory holds true. He earned more playing time in the second half, and responded by scoring all seven of his points while playing eight minutes over the final 20.
Jonathan Holton, who had a tough 1-5 shooting night, still came up with a nice tip-in on the offensive boards in the first half, as well as 11 rebounds. Nathan Adrian, saddled with two fouls in the first half, responde with seven second half points, and continued to be the finest "keep alive" guy WVU has had since Cam Thoroughman.
"Jonathan and Nate did a great job keeping balls alive," Huggins said of a stat that doesn't show up anywhere except in his own video grading process.
Elijah Macon, despite continuing to sturggle on the boards, contributed a nice move into the lane for a first half hoop, and Daxter Miles added three steals to an early three that helped the Mountaineers keep pace in the early going.
None of these contributions or plays were overwhelming in and of themselves. There weren't any "wow" moments, like Paige's scoring outburst against Iowa State last Monday. No one put up huge numbers or stats, outside of Williams' double-double. But it's precisely this, which might appear to be a weakness at first blush, which is actually a strength. While Williams and Paige are the primary scorers, other guys can hit double figures easily, including Adrian, Phillip, and Miles when he controls his shot selection. Steals and forced turnovers can come from all quarters. Everyone can rebound. And most importantly, WVU can win games when it doesn't shoot well, and even when it doesn't capitalize hugely on forced turnovers. Although this game won't be remembered for long, it was the perfect lesson in the way the Mountaineers win games because the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts.