Scorers and shooters: How WVU’s top guards feed off each other’s style of play

Gold and Blue Nation

McNeil, Sherman present diverse scoring ability for Mountaineer offense

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Taz Sherman is the second leading scorer in the Big 12, and leads West Virginia in scoring at 21.8 points per game.

Sean McNeil ranks second on the WVU roster in points per game (13.2) and is one of the top 3-point marksmen in the conference.

Sherman scored a game-high 27 points and McNeil added 19 more in Sunday’s win over Kent State. The duo fell just four points shy of matching the scoring output of the entire Golden Flashes team.

After that win, the two guards were candid about the way they feed off each other, forming a high-scoring duo that’s hard for opposing teams to contain.

“He creates, and if you put me and him on the same side of the floor, do you help off me?” said McNeil. “The person guarding him, chances are they’re probably not going to be able to stay in front of him, so you kind of pick your poison. In that aspect, I think we compliment each other really well.”

It’s the seventh time this season that the two players have led the Mountaineers in scoring in a game, yet each gets the job done in his own way.

“I said this going into the year, he creates for himself probably a little better than I do,” McNeil said. “But that’s good for me, because I think I’m known for spot up shooting.”

Sherman agrees, putting the dynamic this way: “I feel like I’m a scorer that can shoot. You know, like I’m a scorer that can do it at three levels, all three levels [of] scoring. But I can also shoot,” he said. “I feel like [McNeil is] the opposite of that. You’re the shooter, but can also score.”

Let’s dive into that.

The duo has played two games together since McNeil returned from a back injury that forced him to miss the Radford game. Over those two contests, Sherman has made a combined 17 shots from the floor. McNeil has made 11 field goals.

Of his 17 made shots, Sherman has made seven layups and the rest have either been jump shots or 3-pointers, according to charting and stats from WVU.

Of McNeil’s 11 made shots from the floor, nine of them have been jump shots or 3-pointers, while the remaining two have been layups.

To that point, both are right: McNeil does most of his damage shooting farther away from the basket, while a large portion of Sherman’s scoring is done in or around the paint.

Of the 11 shots McNeil has connected on over the past two games, four have been 3-pointers. It means that 36 percent of the shots he made were from beyond the arc. That number is actually lower than his season average of 40 percent.

So, since McNeil has returned from injury, his scoring has been slightly more diverse.

“If somebody tries to run you off the three-point line, they don’t know you have this other stuff in your game,” Sherman said of his backcourt mate.

For Sherman, he’s shown the ability to score however, and whenever, he’s wanted this year.

If you break down his made shots from the past two games, it looks like this: five 3-pointers, five jump shots and seven layups. Inside, mid-range, outside — it’s nearly early even across the board.

Even Bob Huggins agrees with their assessments of their play.

“I think that’s probably pretty accurate,” he said. “They’re different as to, as you’ve been around them and watched them, what they’re better at.”

The head coach gave an example of a set screen play last year, and how easily Sherman got his feet set to get his shot off. It’s a facet of Sherman’s game that Huggins has commented positively on multiple times recently.

Getting the feet and shoulders square to the basket is an element of the scorer-versus-shooter make up.

“[Sherman] can come from different angles and just do an unbelievable job at getting his feet down and getting his shoulder square,” Huggins said. “Sean’s more straight ahead. Sean tries to drive it hard at you to try to get you to back up, to try to get you back on your heals, so he can elevate and shoot.”

How does this dynamic help the Mountaineers? Just like both McNeil and Sherman laid out.

Defenders have to make the choice whether to put more attention on staying in front of Sherman, which leaves McNeil or someone else open on the outside. Or, they can try to keep either player from shooting the three, which presents the ability for the guards to blow by the defender.

Sherman was recently named the Big 12 Player of the Week. He and the Mountaineers return to action Saturday against UAB.

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