Bridges praises hostile environment as “one of the best in our sport”

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia fans are loyal, but when they feel that loyalty has been broken, they will let you know.

Every time Jalen Bridges touched the basketball in Baylor’s win over West Virginia, he was greeted with a barrage of boos from the Mountaineer student section. From their perspective, it’s an understandable response as the Fairmont native had been one of them just a few months before, entering the portal and leapfrogging a conference rival.

From a basketball perspective, the Mountaineers have much more to focus on than an individual player on the opposing team. Before the game, they downplayed the story of a Bridges homecoming, with coach Bob Huggins scoffing at the very idea that it could have existed.

“No, unless you do,” he said Tuesday.

Huggins’ supporters, on the other hand, have made it very clear how they feel about Bridges’ return. Maniac hikers called the striker their “Bum of the Game”, which indicates an opposing player who should be paid special attention from the student section in relation to his teammates.

They even printed wanted posters for Bridges, who they called a “traitor” who was “guilty of abandoning the Mountaineer Nation.” (He later made a poster his profile picture on Twitter.)

“Judas Iscariot.” Benedict Arnold. Rich Rodriguez,” the Maniacs wrote. “Jalen Bridges.”

For Bridges, it all comes with the territory. The West Virginian even seemed to enjoy it and knew what to expect when he took the field.

“Playing here for three years, I kind of knew what it was like for the opposing team to come here,” Bridges said. “I knew that every game someone gets booed, it just happened to be me tonight obviously because I went here.”

Bridges played a physical game, recording a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, his highest total at the WVU Coliseum. That helped the Bears to their first Big 12 win of the season.

After the game, he praised the fans in Morgantown.

“It’s one of the best atmospheres you can play in in this sport, in college basketball,” Bridges said. “And, you know, my teammates had my back tonight, and we just trusted the Lord to go out there and play hard, and if we win, we win, that’s God’s will. We won, it is God’s will.”

However, before he left the country, he made sure to leave one parting jab at the Mountaineers in a tweet, announcing “Take me home.”

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