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WestTAZ Virginia Oklahoma St Basketball

WVU’s Taz Sherman is supplying scoring and perimenter shooting for the Mountaineers off the bench.

Any basketball team worth its salt must possess one essential ingredient.

Chemistry.

That’s precisely what is happening for West Virginia University.

The Na and Cl are growing closer and closer to reacting as the Mountaineers host fourth-ranked Texas at 1 p.m. Saturday at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown.

Just examine the moving molecules.

Sixth man Taz Sherman is supplying the scoring and perimeter shooting the Mountaineers need. In a 75-71 loss to Oklahoma, the 6-foot-4 guard scored 19 points off the bench on 7-of-16 shooting, including 4 for 6 on 3-pointers.

Then, in WVU’s huge comeback victory at Oklahoma State, Sherman scored 20 points on 6-of-16 shooting (3 for 9 on 3-pointers).

Simply put, Sherman is forcing opponents to extend their defenses, which opens the floor.

“He scores the ball for us,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “We’ve, for whatever reason, struggled from the perimeter, and he’s been our most consistent perimeter shooter. Sean [McNeil] is fighting a bad toe, so he’s having a hard time stepping into shots.

“So [Taz] coming in ... because before it was just like almost we were relying so much on Deuce [Miles McBride]. If you put [Taz] in the same backcourt with Deuce and then we can make some shots ... it makes a heckuva difference. It opens things up a lot for Derek [Culver] as well.”

Speaking of McBride, the 6-2 sophomore point guard is blossoming to the degree that he actually is taking over games during crunch time.

“He loves those moments,” said Huggins. “He loves the opportunity to take charge. He got in foul trouble [vs. Oklahoma State], so we didn’t play him as much in the first half. So he was a little fresher, I think.

“He loves the moment. He’s a guy who doesn’t shy away from the challenge.”

Every good team needs “that” guy.

Then, there’s 6-10, 255-pound Culver. The junior center didn’t adjust well to life without departed Oscar Tshiebwe during the Oklahoma loss, scoring only two points and grabbing just six rebounds in 22 minutes of playing time.

But Culver bounced back in a major way vs. Oklahoma State with 22 points on 10-of-19 shooting along with 19 rebounds in 36 minutes.

The difference in performances?

“Playing hard,” answered Huggins. “We had a little sitdown, he and I, about how far he has come and why do we not want to continue down that path.

“I didn’t think he gave us the kind of effort we need to have from him [in the loss to Oklahoma]. I mean, our guys look to him. He’s the guy when we need a basket, he’s the guy we’re going to throw the ball to. So, the Oklahoma State game is probably, I would guess, the most minutes that he’s played [36] in quite a while, maybe all year.”

Then there are the other complementary pieces of the salty equation.

There’s 6-7 redshirt freshman forward Jalen Bridges, who brings 3-point shooting and scoring to the mix. That helps spread the floor so juco transfer point guard Kedrian Johnson can penetrate and dish.

And don’t forget 6-7 forward Gabe Osabuohien, who is a defensive fiend.

“The thing about Gabe is if he’d stop reaching, he can guard anybody,” said Huggins. “He did a great job on [Oklahoma State’s Isaac] Likekele, who was really taking us apart. He guards whoever really has the hot hand.”

Now put that all together.

“If we can spread the floor and play J.B. [Bridges] at the four, J.B. is going to make shots for us,” said Huggins. “We can spread people out, which enables Keedie [Kedrian Johnson] to get it in the lane and pitch it to open people. It allows Deuce to score more in a one-on-one situation.

“And I think, probably most importantly, it gets everybody off of Derek. He takes a beating. I thought he was terrific against Oklahoma State and, hopefully, we can continue down that road with him.”

It will be a salty job.

But, at least, the NaCl formula is in place.