WVU basketball opens season against Buffalo
MORGANTOWN — For the West Virginia University men’s basketball team’s eight newcomers, the long prologue is over.
The Mountaineers’ season will officially tip off when the No. 13 Mountaineers take on the Mid-American Conference’s Buffalo Bulls at 9 p.m. Friday in the WVU Coliseum.
“We’ve been talking about Buffalo since I got here in the summertime,” freshman guard Jordan McCabe said. “We saw them as a very good, first game for us. They’re going to test us in a lot of ways and I think we’re ready for that test.”
More than half of West Virginia’s roster is made up of players who have never appeared in a game for the Mountaineers. And after a disappointing exhibition showing last week against Penn State, they’ll get the opportunity to prove that they can fit into the basketball ethos known as “Press Virginia.”
Before a few months ago, these players had mostly only experienced “Press Virginia” as fans. From the outside, West Virginia’s frenetic style appears to be a difficult, uncompromising basketball philosophy.
As they’ve gotten into the flow of things, West Virginia’s new faces have realized that things are even harder than they could have expected. The presence of Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. at the head of things last season not only took West Virginia’s defense to new heights, but masked the system’s true level of difficulty.
“When I was sitting on the couch at home last year, (Jevon Carter) did a real good job of making it look easy,” McCabe said. “I’ve always considered myself as somebody who’s going to give the most effort possible, but I’ve had to find another gear since I got here trying to fill that role.”
And against Penn State, the Mountaineers showed that there will be bumps in the road. The Mountaineers struggled on the boards and allowed too many open 3-pointers as they fell to the Nittany Lions 84-82 on Nov. 3.
It won’t get any easier against Buffalo, who returns four starters, including their top three scorers, from a team that won the MAC title and shocked Arizona in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
The Bulls got their season started Tuesday, beating St. Francis (Pa.), 82-67, at home despite shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 20.6 percent from 3-point range. Senior Nick Perkins came off the bench to lead the way with 16 points and 9 rebounds.
WVU head coach Bob Huggins said junior point guard Beetle Bolden, recovering from stretched ligaments in his hand, has been practicing through pain and his status for the Buffalo game is still in doubt. Junior college transfer Jermaine Haley started in his place against Penn State, although freshmen Brandon Knapper and McCabe had more playing time down the stretch.