Joe Sadlek/All-Pro Photography

Juwan Staten celebrates with walk-on Tyrone Hughes after scoring 35 points in West Virginia’s 81-71 win over Kansas State.

 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — “Throw hell to the wind.”

That became the maxim for Juwan Staten the past year as he evolved from brooding to breathtaking, a transformation that reached an apex during Saturday’s 35-point performance in an 81-71 win against Kansas State.

Staten’s 35 were the second-most scored by a Big 12 player this season, trailing the 39 Marcus Smart put up against Memphis. And though Smart is a national player of the year candidate, at least two Kansas State players—having witnessed the blur that is Staten—no longer think Oklahoma State has the best point guard in the conference.

“Staten, he’s fast. He can get in the lane and can get by anybody,” said Wildcats guard Marcus Foster. “I feel he’s the best point guard in the league right now.”

MORE: Top-100 wins have been rare … until this week

Superlatives aside, Staten has commanded the ball at crucial junctures this season—those junctures essentially being the time between tip-off and walk-off. Dominating possessions, not in ball-hogging fashion, but at his coach’s insistence, Staten almost single-handedly has become responsible for West Virginia owning of the nation’s best turnover-to-assist ratios.

And when it seemed impossible for WVU to rely on him anymore, Staten assumed an even larger burden in the halfcourt offense Saturday. Working almost exclusively off high ball-screens with shooters spread to both wings, Staten zipped through the lane in explosive and repeated bursts. His 8-of-13 shooting conveyed but a piece of the story because Staten drew 13 fouls and made 18-of-21 free throws.

The K-State defense that prefers to clog the lane entered the day allowing a league-low 61 points per game, but it proved unable to slow Staten one-on-one and unwilling to peel off WVU’s shooters. (Perhaps because Terry Henderson and Eron Harris had scored 11 points each in the first half and Remi Dibo was coming off a strong shooting night at Baylor.)

“They tend to pack it in, and when the ball goes on one side they have three people on the help line and it’s hard to get a shot,” Staten said. “But when you keep everybody spread, it really makes the defense make a decision: Either they help and give up a 3 or they don’t help and have to play great defense.”

K-State coach Bruce Weber seemed to revel in the simplicity of WVU moving away from its normal motion offense—which features every player cutting to the basket—and creating, essentially, a widespread panic in which only Staten and the screener were attacking the rim.

“Staten is a heck of a player,” Weber said. “He was playing so well that West Virginia wasn’t running any plays.”

BOXSCORE: West Virginia 81, Kansas State 71

With Harris and Henderson going silent in the second half—combining for 0-of-5 shooting and just two points—Staten carried WVU by scoring 23 of its 42 points.

“I just want to win. If I have to play 40 minutes, if I have to try to create every play—whatever it takes,” he said.

Technically, he played only 38 minutes this time, yet that was 38 more than he played some 12 months ago when K-State came to the Coliseum and edged West Virginia 65-64. That day Staten was benched following a dust-up with Huggins, and few around the program could have imagined how coach and point guard would one day exist in such trusting harmony.

Now Huggins compares Staten’s commitment level to those oft-mentioned coach’s pets of yesteryear, and the new combination of desire, conviction and refreshed psychology has yielded a terrifically rejuvenated player.

“Last year I played with a lot on my mind and was second-guessing myself,” explained Staten, admitting he worried too much about “what people thought about me or what they were saying about me.”

But he has since listened less to the doubters and more to his father’s adage—”just throw hell to the wind and play basketball.”

He certainly threw hell at K-State on Saturday, far more than the Wildcats could handle.


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Comments

  • jay ziehm

    Good game for Staten to bad this is a 2 man team. I still think that they will fall flat before the seasons ends. big twelve title contender next year. I don't think so. maybe two years. those last three (3) for a NIT bid will be rough. In order to get a NCAA bid they'll have to win the big 12 tournament. snowball chance in hell but some cellar dwellers have done it in the past.

    • Bross

      Go back to the blundering herd.

    • GoEers

      If anyone knows about cellar dwellers it would definitely be you Jay ziehm...your favorite team marshall is a cellar dweller in the worst conference in college basketball

  • leroy j gibbs

    Juwan is the new da'sean!

  • shawn

    It's bout that action boss!

  • squad

    we are getting very close to what Calhoun did with kemba walker... you hate to rely on one guy so much but at this point, our worry should be about him leaving for the nba tis year.. i'm sure he'd get drafted at this moment

    • justin

      didnt kemba and calhoun get a national championship? your observations are stupid. go cheer for marshall.

  • Aaron

    This is why JuWan Staten came to West Virginia University to play for HOF Coach Bob Huggins. There's more to basketball than X's and O's and this is a reaffirmation of that simple fact.

    The only concern I have now is has JuWan moved into Joe Alexander territory? With the need for PG's at the next level, when Staten explores his options in a few months, what will those on at the next level tell him?

    Draft express currently has him ranked at the 71st before yesterday. That is certainly going to change.

  • Mountain Navy.

    So where are the Huggin haters now? Great game yesterday this team gets better and better every game.

    • Hailey

      Unfortunately until he beats a team ranked in the top 25 the haters will stick around. We will beat OU next ...book it

  • squad

    I love him...and no matter what line if work you are in, he is 100% right. "throw hell to the wind:

    ok..now which sponsor is going to make "throw hell to the wind" t shirts???? id love one!!!

  • David Kennedy

    This teams overall improvement has been incredible this year.
    I thought they would be a 'next years team, and they will be..but this year's team is really looking good.
    They will be a force when tournament time begins.
    Go Huggs !!!!

  • Country Roads

    With Staten playing the way he is continues, it will attract good young high school playing guards to WVU. History at WVU has proven that to be so sents Huggs has been here.

  • JT

    Probably one on one the best point man in the country. If the younger players develop and Staten carries this over to next season this team will be a force and Big 12 title contender. BUT, the younger players and in particular Williams with an inside game needs to develop.

  • GoEers

    Staten has turned into one of the best point guards in the country. This team's going to be fun to watch heading the home stretch.

  • Bill

    Sure hope there is some one else on this team that can make this same kind of improvement between this year and next year.

  • Mike

    Staten's improvement over last year is nothing short of amazing. Maybe the biggest turnaround of one player I've ever witnessed. He's placed himself on the NBA's radar, and the best news is, WVU will have him again for one more year!

    • PC in CLE

      Spot on. Now I'm worrying about losing him to the NBA before his last year. He deserves it but selfishly I'd like to see him stick around another year.

  • Low Rider

    Fantastic day for Staten. If Henderson and Harris contributed in the 2nd half WVU would have won by 15 or more. I think the team is starting to come together. Probably too late for an NCAA bid…but 3 more wins gets us NIT eligible, which is a big improvement from last year.

  • Billy

    You got to like his game, most dedicated player since Butler.

    • rtdeco

      so true...hadnt thought of that comparison until your comment.