Moments after landing with his leg and knee bent awkwardly underneath him, Emmitt Matthews Jr. grimaced in pain at midcourt. He stayed seated on the hardwood floor for roughly a minute before getting up, still clearly in pain from being unintentionally knocked down just 30 seconds into the game.
Matthews was taken out of the contest before play resumed and headed back to the locker room. He returned to the bench several minutes later, and re-entered the game at the 12:03 mark in the first half, and WVU ahead by one point.
Matthews, with ice wrapped around his knee, did not answer any questions about the play or his knee after the game. Head coach Bob Huggins did not address it either.
What Matthews did detail, among other things, was how he was able to take advantage of the UAB defense once he re-entered the game.
“I just feel like in the times that I did catch it, I feel like they backed off a little bit,” said Matthews. “So, if they give me space, and I feel like I can get my shot up, I’m going to do that.”
Matthews came back from the scary-looking play to score a season-high 16 points. He knocked down a 3-pointer just 12 seconds after checking back into the game. Close to four minutes later, he buried 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to ignite the home team and the home crowd.
Those trey balls kicked off a 15-4 run for West Virginia, and helped the Mountaineers outscore the Blazers by 12 points over the final 8:36 of the first half.
“I feel like the first one I had was a little too open,” the veteran forward said. “After that, once you kind of hit one you see one go into the basket, especially after being out for a minute, so you’re kind of coming in fresh, and even though I might’ve been feeling a little bit weird or whatnot, but I just saw the hoop and I shot it. And I felt good, so that’s really all there is to it.”
Huggins, when asked about Matthews’ performance, pointed to the forward’s desire to play for WVU, and the amount of time he put forth improving his shooting ability.
“He’s really shot the ball well. He’s shot the ball much better than what he’s shot it before,” said Huggins. “When it looked like they were about ready to make a run, he’s the guy that made big shots for us.”
Saturday’s 4-for-5 performance from beyond the arc is the most glaring example of Matthews’ improved three-point shooting. He is shooting a career-high 48.4 percent from three-point land this year, a marked improvement over last season’s career-best 33.6 shooting percentage from three-point range.
The Tacoma, Washington native credits all of the work he did in the gym over the summer and preseason to his improved shooting numbers.
Matthews’ 16 points against the Blazers are the most he’s scored in a game since exploding for 25 in March against Oregon. His four made 3-pointers are the most since February 10 against Arizona State. It marked just the third time in his career he netted four 3-pointers.