West Virginia men’s basketball earned its sixth win of the season over Bellarmine 74-55 in typical “Stress Virginia” fashion as the Mountaineers played a game of two different halves to beat the Knights at home on Tuesday.
The shooting duo of Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil combined for 32 points as the Mountaineers coasted by the Knights — but it wasn’t a smooth 40 minutes of basketball for WVU.
West Virginia led for 38 minutes, but Bellarmine kept it close through the first half. The hosts struggled to defend inside early and own the glass, and even allowed the Knights to take the lead eight minutes into the contest.
“West Virginia kind of has this second half mentality kind of thing,” joked guard Sean McNeil. “We like to make games more stressful than we probably should.”
Huggins saw a stark difference in his team after halftime.
“I thought our ball movement got better in the second half,” he said. “We were trying to dribble too much…they’re playing pack line, which we’re going to end up playing against at some point in time, you need to learn to pass the ball.”
Sherman was the difference in the first half as the only double-digit scorer between the two teams — but the difference in the game was the WVU bench. West Virginia got 28 points from its reserves, meanwhile the Knights had just seven.
The biggest bench spark came from Malik Curry, who scored nine points, and Pauly Paulicap, who added six. The duo even connected on an alley-oop that jolted the crowd.
McNeil put up his third-highest scoring total of the season thus far against Bellarmine. In fact, this game was circled on McNeil’s slate, as he was once a Knight in 2018 before leaving the program to go to junior college.
“It was definitely more than just another game. I’ve played friends in the past, I still keep in contact with a few of those guys, Scotty [Davenport]’s a good coach, he’s a good guy. I have tons of respect for them for sure, but I definitely marked this one on the calendar.”
Per usual, however, Sherman led the game with 18 points.
“I think we’re getting a little better defensively,” Huggins said. “Offensively, we probably rely on Taz too much. I’m all for him getting 25-30 a game…but we need some other guys to step up and score a little bit for us as well.”
The Mountaineers improve to 6-1 on the season with the victory and stay unbeaten at the WVU Coliseum. They continue their homestand on Saturday when they host Radford at 4 p.m.