The mad dash of the NCAA transfer portal produced a unique situation on Friday after Emmitt Matthews Jr. announced his intention to reunite with Bob Huggins and WVU men’s basketball.
Matthews averaged double-digit points in 2021-22 as a Washington Husky, marking his best statistical season in his four-year career in college basketball. Before he headed west, though, he flashed plenty of talent during his first three seasons with the Old Gold and Blue, and he will look to recreate some of those performances in his final campaign with the Mountaineers.
Here are some of his top games at West Virginia:
March 14, 2019: Career-high 28 points to top No. 7 TTU in Big 12 Tournament
As a freshman, Matthews played sparing minutes throughout the regular season and made the most of them with a trio of double-digit scoring performances. A slew of midseason roster departures forced Matthews, along with the rest of his promising freshman class, to carry the team’s standard through the end of a disappointing 2018-19 campaign.
The mood around that season suddenly changed when the Mountaineers arrived at the Big 12 Tournament as the league’s bottom seed. WVU opened the tournament with a one-point victory over Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma Sooners, setting up a second-round clash with 7th-ranked Texas Tech, the top seed in the conference.
WVU got off to a fast start, jumping out to a double-digit lead within the first 10 minutes of play. The Red Raiders whittled that down to nine points as the period came to an end, but Matthews helped stave off a comeback with 10 points in the last six minutes.
The Red Raiders completed the comeback in the closing minutes of the second half, but Matthews wasn’t done. He added 13 points in the second half to get his total up to 28 points (a far cry from his 3.9 points-per-game average before this game) and keep the Red Raiders down. He also grabbed a key offensive rebound (his eighth board of the contest) leading to a massive trip to the foul line to seal WVU’s trip to the Big 12 Semifinals as the Mountaineers were victorious, 79-74.
March 25, 2019: Matthews drops 21 in tough CBI loss
West Virginia’s second-round clash with Coastal Carolina in the CBI is one that Mountaineer fans likely pushed out of their memory, but it contained another promising performance from the freshman Matthews.
Huggins trusted Matthews with the ball throughout this game, as the forward took the biggest share of shots in the first half. He started a cold 3-for-10, but still mustered eight points.
Matthews heated up after halftime, shooting a perfect 3-for-3 from the field and 6-for-6 from the line, adding another 13 points to his total as he tied Lamont West for the team-high with 21 points. To boot, Matthews added eight rebounds to WVU’s effort on the glass, a block and an assist.
Unfortunately, though, the Chanticleers were red-hot, shooting 58 percent from the field and hitting 13 three-pointers to end the Mountaineers’ postseason with a 109-91 defeat.
Nov. 15, 2019: 17 points vs. Pitt at the Pete
The most recent editions of the Backyard Brawl have seemed to bring out the best in WVU’s hoopers, and 2019 was no different.
Freshman sensation Oscar Tshiebwe stole the show with a 20-point, 17-rebound performance in WVU’s 68-53 victory over Pitt at the Petersen Events Center, overshadowing a big performance by the sophomore Matthews.
The Panthers played the Mountaineers tight in the first half, as WVU took just a one point lead into the locker room at half, helped by a pair of three-pointers from Matthews.
The game changed in the second half, however, as did Matthews’s performance. WVU held the Panthers to just 18 points after halftime, while Matthews scored 11 of the Mountaineers’ 32 second-half points to help seal the win. By the final buzzer, Matthews also recorded eight rebounds.
Dec. 12, 2019: First career double-double vs. Austin Peay
A month into the 2019-20 season, it was clear that Bob Huggins’s squad was back on the winning track after winning its first seven games and bringing home a championship from the Cancun Challenge (when WVU coincidentally beat fellow future incoming transfer Erik Stevenson and Wichita State in the tournament finals). That hot streak came to an end when the Mountaineers took a trip to the Big Apple and dropped its first game to St. John’s.
West Virginia returned to Morgantown hungry for a win, and Austin Peay stood in the way of that goal. Matthews was apparently starving the most out of the Mountaineers, and he made sure to eat when he faced the Governors.
WVU bounced back to blow the Governors out at the WVU Coliseum, earning an 84-53 victory at home. Matthews took his spot on the bench earlier than usual as the result was in sight, but not before his impact was felt on the court.
In just 28 minutes, Matthews logged 16 points and 10 rebounds (including four offensive boards) for his first career double-double, while missing just two of his nine field goal attempts for the game.
March 7, 2020: Matthews leads WVU to beat No. 4 Baylor in wild finale
Matthews’s sophomore campaign was a real roller-coaster ride, as WVU climbed the national polls all the way to the 12th spot in the AP poll. By March, though, the Mountaineers had fallen right out of the top-25.
Still, WVU had its eyes set on a postseason run and its return to the NCAA Tournament. It hosted No. 4 Baylor, the top team in the Big 12, on the final day of the regular season with the hope of earning a massive resume-boosting win.
14,014 Mountaineer fans packed into the WVU Coliseum to watch a fireworks display put on by the two teams on the court. The lead went back and forth for the first 30 minutes of play, but the Mountaineers took control in the end as both teams combined to score 55 points in the last nine minutes of the thriller.
Matthews came off the bench and played a team-high 38 minutes for the Mountaineers and led WVU with 18 points. At the final buzzer, WVU topped the Bears 76-64, and many of those 14,000-plus fans were storming the court.
What those in attendance didn’t know was that would be WVU’s season finale, as the postseason would be canceled with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic before the Mountaineers tipped off their run in the Big 12 Tournament.
Feb. 20, 2021: Mountaineers win in Austin as Matthews shows out
West Virginia was fighting through both the COVID-19 pandemic and its gauntlet of a Big 12 schedule when it traveled to Austin to face Texas. With the end of the regular season quickly approaching, the No. 13 Mountaineers were desperate to earn some victories to improve their resume and ascend the Big 12 standings.
Unfortunately for them, the 12th-ranked Longhorns were looking to do the same, and they had already topped WVU by a bucket in Morgantown in January.
For a while, it looked like Texas would run all over the Mountaineers. The Longhorns led for most of the first half and took a 10-point lead to the locker room as guard Courtney Ramey began a career game for the burnt orange.
West Virginia stormed back in the second half, however, outscoring the Longhorns by 12 after halftime and returning their January by taking an 84-82 win.
Deuce McBride led the Mountaineers with 17 points, but Matthews was one of five Mountaineers in double figures with 14 while leading the team with seven boards.