MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia fans are loyal to their own, but when they feel that loyalty has been breached, they’ll let you know about it.
Every time Jalen Bridges touched the basketball in Baylor’s win over West Virginia, he was greeted with a torrent of boos from the Mountaineer student section. From their perspective, it’s an understandable response as the Fairmont native had been one of them just months prior, entering the portal and landing at a conference rival.
From a basketball perspective, the Mountaineers have much more to focus on than a singular player on an opposing team. Ahead of the game, they played down the storyline of a Bridges homecoming and coach Bob Huggins scoffed at the very idea it might have existed.
“Not unless you make it one,” he said Tuesday.
Huggins’ supporters, on the other hand, made it abundantly clear how they felt about Bridges’ return. The Mountaineer Maniacs dubbed the forward their “Bum of the Game,” which denotes an opposing player to be given special attention from the student section compared to his teammates.
They even printed wanted posters for Bridges, who they called a “traitor” who was “guilty of abandoning Mountaineer Nation.” (He later made the poster his profile picture on Twitter.)
“Judas Escariot. Benedict Arnold. Rich Rodriguez,” the Maniacs wrote. “Jalen Bridges.”
For Bridges, it all comes with the territory. The West Virginian even seemed to enjoy it and knew what to expect when he took the court.
“Playing here for three years, I kind of knew how it was for an opposing team to come in here,” Bridges said. “I knew they boo somebody every game, it just happened to be me tonight obviously because I went here.”
Bridges played a physical game, notching a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, his highest total at the WVU Coliseum. That helped lift the Bears to their first win in the Big 12 this season.
After the game, he praised the fans in Morgantown.
“It’s one of the best atmospheres you can play in in this sport, in college basketball,” Bridges said. “And, you know, my teammates had my back tonight, and we just put our faith in the Lord that we’d go out there and play hard, and if we win, we win, that’s God’s will. We won, so that’s God’s will.”
Before he left the state, however, he made sure to leave one parting jab to the Mountaineers in a tweet, posting “Take me homeeeeeee.”