West Virginia Ohio St Basketball

West Virginia's Chase Harler (14) pushes the ball up the floor against Ohio State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Cleveland. West Virginia defeated Ohio State 67-59. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

MORGANTOWN — As Texas Tech, the national championship runner-up from a year ago, comes knocking on the Coliseum door this evening to face West Virginia in what turns out to be a key Big 12 meeting for both teams, they are faced with a scouting nightmare.

True, they have to find a way to deal with WVU’s inside game that is built around Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe, but that really isn’t what makes the Mountaineers unique.

Instead, what Bob Huggins has come up with this season is a three-headed, sometimes even four-headed, rotation at point guard, something that changes the look of the offense each time a switch is made.

And if you are looking for a rhyme or reason as to who is there at any given moment, Huggins offers this up as the only explanation he can come up with.

“We’re kind of throwing them all out there and the one who is giving us the best results is the one who stays the longest,” he said.

So, you may look up at one time and there’s Jordan McCabe, who starts the game, or Miles “Deuce” McBride, who seems to be there at crunch time, or Brandon Knapper, who is coming on lately or even 6-7 Jermaine Healy, who gives a totally different feel to the team but handles the point adequately.

“I thought Knapper had a really good game at Oklahoma State. Jordan came in and really played well at the end of the game. He managed the game well. He’s getting better,” Huggins said.

McBride has become a fan favorite as he has risen to the occasion when things get sticky, but they aren’t yet to the point where any can take over full time the way a Truck Bryant or Jevon Carter has done in the past.

“You know, we expect a lot from these guys but they’re not really very experienced,” Huggins said. “Usually they are far superior than anyone they play against in high school, so they get away with things they can’t get away with here because [other] guys are just as good as they are.

“I think Jordan and Knapp are getting better. We’re fortunate we can use Deuce at either spot.”

McBride, while solid at the point, is probably better suited to play the 2-guard on this team.

“What was happening before was we were trying to get Taz [Sherman] going and Sean [McNeil] was making shots so there really wasn’t a lot of room over there at the 2,” Huggins said. “So when Knapp was struggling a little bit with ball security we played Deuce at the point.”

Perhaps the most interesting development out of all this involves McCabe, who came in as a highly-publicized point guard after being named Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin his senior year.

He was pretty much thrust into the fire last year to replace no less a player than Jevon Carter on a highly flawed team and it became a yearlong learning experience for him.

He was the main man at the point, sometimes flashing great promises, sometimes just flashing Huggins’ temper to erupt.

Now, his world is different, averaging 13.5 minutes a game, starting and playing until his play or the flow of the game demands a change, often sitting for long periods and then being called upon again late if WVU is in front for his free throw shooting, which at 85 percent towers over everything else on a team that is weak from the free throw line.

Asked if the role took a while to accept, McCabe said no.

“There wasn’t really any conversation about it,” he said. “I had to see what was going on. Things are obviously different than they were last year when things kind of crumbled down and they had me playing 30 to 40 minutes a game.

“I was playing a lot more minutes, but things happen and you have to adjust. I’m just trying to take it as we go. If we’re winning games, that’s what matters. That’s what it’s all about.

“A lot of people say that, but they don’t really mean it. We’re all trying to find ways to help the team win. That’s my job at the end of the day, to help the team win any way I can, no matter how much I play.”

So, just what is McCabe’s role on this team?

“My role is to try to be an extension not only of Huggs but of Coach [Larry] Harrison. That’s the head coach and our specific guards coach. I try to be the coach on the floor. That’s always been my job, whether I was playing every single minute in high school or up and down last year.

“This year, it’s a different role but I’m still trying to be a extension of them when I am on the floor.”

Things might have worked out differently had McCabe gotten off to a hot start, but he suffered defensively and then could not hit a shot, missing his first 12 3-pointers. Even now he is just 5 for 32, 15.8% from 3.

It hasn’t been easy to handle.

“I never have been in that situation,” he said. “I wasn’t shooting with confidence. The psychological aspect of the game of basketball is something I’ve always been interested in but I never had to use it because I was in a situation where things were going good or if they weren’t going good I was still getting my 20 some shots a game and could do what I wanted.

“Now the psychology becomes more important. Meeting with our sports psychologist is really important. Meeting with her, trying to figure how I can get better mentally between the ears is something I have focused on quite a bit.

“The last two games when I raise up to shoot I’m shooting with confidence and I expect it to go in.”

McCabe believes the work with Dayna Charbonneau has been beneficial.

“She has helped me quite a bit. She breaks down what it’s like to be in a rut and how you get out and how not to get back in a rut. She helps you find those trigger points. She’s great,” he said.

And when it was noted that sometimes players have trouble accepting such help, McCabe showed insight into how it works.

“I’m not going in there asking Dayna X’s and O’s. I got Huggs for that,” he aid.

No, he’s not asking X’s and O’s, just whys.

“I know it will affect my performance on and off the court for the rest of my life. I’m just trying to get better mentally and physically.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

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