MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Erik Stevenson had one of the best nights of his long college career for WVU on Friday against Penn.
The fifth-year guard paced the game with 21 points in just 16 minutes on the floor, only missing one shot in the whole game. It was Stevenson’s 10th career game with 20 points or more, but it was by far the most efficient shooting performance out of his 90 games in college.
Stevenson didn’t gloat after the game. He instead maintained a consistent line that his teammates have said all season: he just did the right things, took the right shots, and most importantly, they fell that night.
In Stevenson’s eyes — and those of his teammates — it was just his turn to score the basketball that night.
“That’s the beauty of this team,” he said. “We have four, five, six, seven guys that can do that at any given night. We’ve seen it in practice, we’ve seen a lot of guys really get hot in practice, so it happened to be my day today.”
The Mountaineers have played four games so far, and each time, a different player has topped the scoring column. In the season opener against Mount St. Mary’s, it was Emmitt Matthews Jr.’s day. In Pittsburgh, Joe Toussaint shined. Then, back home against Morehead State, Tre Mitchell carried the standard before figuratively passing it to Stevenson on Friday.
Bob Huggins has praised the ability of his team to share the scoring load and its enthusiasm to do so. He credited one of the most important additions from the transfer portal this offseason: the returning Matthews, who brought his intimate knowledge of the Huggins-led program.
“They like each other, they really get along,” Huggins said. “Emmitt’s been terrific. Emmitt’s been our rock when it comes to communicating with guys and he knows everybody.”
Matthews doesn’t wow in the box score every night, but his importance to the team is easily visible in his numbers. He plays a team-high 29.5 minutes per game and owns a plus-minus of plus-98 through four games — two marks that lead WVU by a wide margin.
Simply put, that means Matthews is Huggins’s most-trusted player, and good things happen when he’s on the court. It also doesn’t hurt that he is one of four Mountaineers averaging double-digit scoring.
WVU’s flourishing chemistry is a welcome sign early in the season as the Mountaineers look ahead to their first true tests at the Phil Knight Legacy tournament.
“It’s really valuable,” Huggins said. “There’s a lot of teams where there’s a lot of jealousy. Sometimes you just don’t like guys. I’ve had some teams where there were a couple guys that just didn’t like each other. That happens.”