CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Juwan Staten was supposed to be the sidekick to Eron Harris for what was expected to be another rebuilding year at West Virginia.
Lately it's been Staten delivering clutch performances to lift the Mountaineers (13-9, 5-4) into the upper tier of the Big 12 standings with a test looming against No. 21 Oklahoma (17-5, 6-3) on Wednesday night.
Staten made the go-ahead layup with 3 seconds left in a 66-64 win over Baylor on Jan. 28, then scored a career-high 35 points in a win Saturday over Kansas State to earn honors as Big 12 player of the week.
Staten is the Big 12's second-leading scorer and leader in assists. West Virginia will need his production to get through a tough stretch that includes four straight games against ranked opponents.
"He's been terrific," said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. "I think he's really studied film. He's trying to learn the game. It has a lot to do with his decision making. He's just gotten so much better with his decision making — of when to go, when not to go, getting the ball to other guys. And he's worked really, really hard on just shooting. When he makes that 17-18 foot jumper, he's hard to guard."
Besides becoming a blossoming star, Staten has been a workhorse. He's averaging 37 minutes per game, three minutes more than anyone else in the league.
At 18 points per game, he's slightly behind Iowa State's Melvin Ejim for the conference scoring lead. He's also third in field-goal percentage (53), sixth in steals (1.3) and second on the team in rebounding (5.8), with most of those coming after opponents' missed shots.
"If I have to play 40 minutes, if I have to try to create every play, whatever it takes," Staten said. "I'm just trying to win. Whatever the coaches ask me to do is what I'm going to go out there and do."
Staten has come a long way since January 2013, when he emerged from Huggins' doghouse after being benched for three consecutive halves. West Virginia finished 13-19, the worst record in Huggins' 31 seasons as head coach.
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