MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Gabe Osabuohien is known for his spark off the bench.
His contributions show up mainly on defense, as he’s one of the best in the country on that side of the ball. He leads WVU in deflections with 131 and has drawn 18 charges this season. Last year, those numbers read 171 and 23 respectively. Of his 103 total rebounds on the year, 58 have been pulled down on the defensive end.
During West Virginia’s six Big 12 Conference games, Osabuohien has shown just how valuable he is. He notched 12 points in a win over Oklahoma State earlier this month. That was his season high at the time as he went 4-7 from the field and a perfect 4-4 from the free-throw line. In the next contest vs. Kansas, he only contributed five points but lead the team with 10 rebounds.
Wednesday night vs. Oklahoma, his alter ego, Gabe Osa-scorin’, was out once again. The fifth-year forward led the Mountaineers with a career-best 17 points.
“He played harder than everybody else played, and to his credit, he’s worked on his game,” head coach Bob Huggins said in an exclusive interview for this weekend’s Bob Huggins Show. “He couldn’t drive it at the goal before. I mean if he did drive it at the goal, he may hit it underneath the backboard or throw it behind the backboard. He’s come a long long way. I mean, he couldn’t hit a free throw. It’s almost like if it even hit the rim everybody was excited. Now, he’s become not a great free throw shooter, but an above-average free throw shooter.”
His shots from the line late kept WVU afloat against OU. His 7-10 outing at the line marked a career-best, and his five field goals made tied a career high. He only missed one attempt from the floor.
In the first half, Osabuohien was responsible for six straight points and snapped a WVU scoring drought. Thanks to two perfect back-to-back trips to the line and a jumper, he had another run of six straight in the second half. While he was WVU’s leading scorer for the first time this season, it was his performance on his dominant side of the game that was unsuspected.
“I tried to be more aggressive and step up in an area where we needed help today, but I just have to lock in defense,” Osabuohien said. “If we aren’t scoring and they aren’t scoring, it’s going to be a battle, but if we aren’t scoring and they score, the outcome isn’t going to be in our favor.”
There’s one thing you can always count on when it’s game day for Huggins’ team, and that’s Osabuohien giving his all. He looks to amp it up even more this Saturday when he faces off against his former team.
He played in 54 games for Arkansas before transferring to WVU in August of 2019. Coach Huggins said he isn’t too worried about Osabuohien “trying to do too much” in his old arena, but sometimes his passion for the game has an adverse effect.
“He can’t try to do more than he already does. He plays two and a half minutes, fouls twice or three times, then you have to take him out. He goes back in and plays with the same reckless abandon,” Huggins said. “We sit here and talk about getting guys trying to play harder. With Gabe, you are trying to say, ‘stay in the game longer.’”
Osabuohien has fouled out twice this season. He’s reached four fouls in an additional three contests and registered three six times. Coincidently, his weakness is his former team’s strength, as Arkansas leads the nation in free throws made and is No. 2 in free throws attempted.
The Mountaineers and Razorbacks go head to head in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. on ESPN2.