Staten got assist from dad on game-winner
MORGANTOWN - The thought probably didn't occur to Juwan Staten during the 20 or so seconds he spent dribbling the clock down Tuesday night in Waco, Texas.
No, the majority of that time was occupied in the fundamental effort of attempting to simultaneously hang onto the basketball and not be called for a five-second violation.
"I knew if I could get the clock down to about 10 seconds,'' Staten said, "I could get a pretty good shot.''
Nor was it likely to have crossed his mind after he'd eliminated most of that time and begun the ultimate process of driving toward the basket to score, break a tie game and beat Baylor. The nature of how he was going to do that, after all, was more general than specific.
"Actually, I was expecting to end the game with some free throws,'' Staten said. "I missed a couple of big free throws and I knew that was probably something they were going to talk about in their huddle.''
Truth be told, even as Staten approached the basket, he probably didn't have a specific plan. That's just not the way things work. If you're trying to make something happen, sometimes it's better to just go with the flow. There are others involved, after all, and where all those other moving parts wind up and what they seem intent upon doing is naturally going to affect the outcome.
"But they played straight man and didn't do anything we really didn't expect,'' Staten said, a bit surprised. "So I actually got a better shot than I expected.''
And that's when it finally hit him. Not in the time he was working the clock or starting to get to the basket or even when he approached his destination. It was in the split second when Staten finally got there, running to and ultimately past the rim, that the light bulb went off.
He was there, at the basket, along with two Baylor defenders. Because of those two, Staten had already missed an opportunity to simply put in a layup, which is his M.O. almost every time. He'd passed the point of shooting and was already under the basket. Because of that, his options were limited.
That's when a funny thing happened. Staten's father showed up. No, not physically, but in the same place he always shows up.
"My dad, he's always in my head, giving me stuff to think about,'' Staten said. "And he told me I'm not shooting enough reverse layups.''
And so that West Virginia managed a fairly significant 66-64 win Tuesday night in Waco when Staten shot - and made - that reverse layup with three seconds to play is as much thanks to Billy Staten as to his son.
Hey, what does it matter who gets the credit?
"I remember him telling me there's probably been 17, 18 times this year that I drove under the basket and ended up kicking it out when I didn't get a shot up,'' Juwan Staten said. "So when I had that opportunity and I drove under the basket and right before I kicked it out, I thought, 'Shoot the reverse layup.'
"I looked up at the rim and there was nobody there to block it and I put it up. I give all the props to my dad.''
That Staten wound up the hero in what was West Virginia's first-ever win against a Big 12 team not named Texas, Texas Tech or TCU - for the record that was an 0-15 journey - was at the same time rather remarkable and not at all so. Face it, if games are close and West Virginia needs baskets, he's the guy who handles that. No one else is capable of doing all the things he can do, from handling and protecting the ball to either getting to the basket or finding room for a mid-range jump shot, usually from around the free-throw line. Consider that a look at the Big 12 statistics will find Staten showing up in a ridiculous number of categories, including scoring (4th), rebounding (17th), defensive rebounds (8th), field goal percentage (2nd), assists (1st), steals (4th), assist-to-turnover ratio (1st) and minutes played (1st).
But Tuesday was an odd night for Staten in that he didn't do one thing that he's not great at but can usually be counted upon to handle in the clutch - make free throws. Had he done that through a one-and-one opportunity or a two-shot foul in the final minutes, the game probably wouldn't have come down to a final shot. In part because Staten couldn't make a free throw, the Mountaineers didn't score for nearly the last five minutes of the game, losing an eight-point lead until the final shot.
That's uncharacteristic of Staten, who was a 72.5 percent free-throw shooter coming into the game. He also shoots more free throws than just about anyone else in the Big 12, so it's not like he doesn't have practice.
Yet there he was, bricking a one-and-one and then two free throws. He would finish the night having missed five of six attempts. And that surprised just about everyone.
"I was shocked,'' WVU coach Bob Huggins admitted. "After he missed that front end, I thought he'd step up and make those two.''
Still, as usually happens, Staten wound up with the ball at the end of the game despite his shooting troubles. Again, there's no one on WVU's roster better at creating something in a tight situation, which at times leads one to wonder why Staten doesn't do it more often than he does. But Huggins thinks his junior point guard has just the right mix.
"I think he does it at the right time,'' Huggins said. "I think he understands he has to get other people involved, and I think he understands when everybody else is struggling and he has to try to make a play.''
And that's what he did Tuesday. With a little held from dad.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1