MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Logically, the worse a team’s win-loss record is, the easier that team should be to beat. In West Virginia’s last four games, however, the two teams with bad records are the ones that gave the Mountaineers the most issues.
In the team’s four most recent games, WVU went 2-0 against Texas and TCU (combined record 25-13), with margins of victory of 38 and 32 points. Against Kansas State and Missouri (combined record 17-21), the Mountaineers went 1-1, losing to the Wildcats and nearly allowing the Tigers to come back from a 14-point first-half lead.
After beating Missouri Saturday afternoon WVU coach Bob Huggins said the team needs to be more focused on winning each game instead of focusing on bigger, season-long goals.
“I go in the theater room and they got on the blackboard to win the conference, win the national championship and I’m like, ‘you guys have got to string it together, you’ve got to string wins together’,” Huggins said. “You can’t have a big win and then come back and not win the next game, which we did. We didn’t play the Kansas State game, we didn’t play the Saint John’s game.”
Kansas State dominated the Mountaineers when the two teams played a couple of weeks ago. Huggins and players said their energy was not good enough and they were not prepared to play that game. Saturday was almost a similar story. The Mountaineers got out to a 20-6 lead over Missouri, playing dominant basketball. But with eight minutes left in the first half, the game completely changed. Mizzou outscored WVU 17-4 for the rest of the half, cutting WVU’s lead to just 24-23 at halftime.
Senior guard Jermaine Haley said the team did not start how they should have and that teams that are desperate for a win will often be the team that plays harder.
“Kansas State was a prime example,” Haley said. “Coach warned us before that game they were going to give it their all. That was basically their season right there, (Kansas State) needed to beat us, same with these guys (Missouri). It’s just all about executing early and having more intensity than the other team. I thought we got off to a flat start compared to our other starts, but we executed down the stretch.”
Even in his first year, freshman guard Miles McBride has learned how playing against desperate teams can be different.
“A team’s that desperate is obviously going to come in more hungry, more focused and they’re going to give a lot more effort,” McBride said. “But a team that has so many players like we do, we can tire them out still because they’re not as deep as us. I don’t think there’s a team in America that’s as deep as us. So it’s our job to come out and play hard. Do your job and do it as hard as you can.”
West Virginia came out in the second half Saturday dominate again, outscoring the Tigers 50-28 to win the game, but the message of how dangerous a desperate team can be had already been sent.
WVU’s next game is on the road Wednesday against Texas Tech. WVU defeated the Red Raiders earlier this month at home. After that game is a rematch against Kansas State on Saturday.