Following West Virginia’s win over TCU on Thursday night, there was only one thing to be excited about: Jalen Bridges.
I knew when Bridges was recruited to come play for head coach Bob Huggins that he would be a key factor in a lot of WVU games, but I didn't think it would take this long. Before WVU met with TCU, Bridges had only scored in double-digits four times with his career-high coming against Oklahoma on Jan. 2 with 19 points.
It's taken a while for him to find that consistency that could lead to him being a serious scoring addition for West Virginia, but I think he has made it and it is the perfect time. Bridges has been a factor rebounding the ball for the majority of the year, but these last two games highlight his scoring ability.
Against No. 3 Baylor, Bridges scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds. He also made a lot of plays that don’t show up on a stat sheet which are hustle plays. Bridges shows limitless energy when he is on the floor and in the last two games, he has been a boost when he is out there for the Mountaineers.
Against the Horned Frogs, Bridges finished with a career-high 22 points and a career-high 12 rebounds to also earn his first double-double.
This team is impressive because there is Miles McBride to lead in scoring, but he isn’t the only one. Huggins has at his disposal Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil, Derek Culver, McBride and now Bridges to score points at high levels.
Bridges did a lot for West Virginia on Thursday night, but I think he might have done more to spark fear in the rest of the Big 12 and the NCAA Tournament teams. With Bridges adding his ability to score and rebound, it makes this West Virginia team even more dangerous heading into the regular season finale against Oklahoma State on Saturday and the postseason tournaments over the next couple of weeks.
The Mountaineers didn’t shoot well — 34% from field goal range and 38% from behind the arc — but they handled the Horned Frogs. West Virginia should’ve won this game by at least 15 points, but they only won by nine. I think some of that performance could be put on the game against Baylor just two days before, but this was an important win.
West Virginia could’ve gone into Thursday’s game overlooking TCU and gotten beat. It didn’t, and now Huggins could become the sixth Division I men’s basketball coach to reach 900 career wins on Saturday.
Bridges is catching fire at one of the biggest times of the year in college basketball. He might be poised to add his name to the folklore of March Madness heroes when the Mountaineers make their trek to Indianapolis in two weeks. However, before all that starts, WVU has to deal with Cade Cunningham and the Cowboys on Saturday and the Big 12 Tournament next week.