West Virginia didn’t have a lot to look forward to Wednesday night other than the opportunity to play at home again.
The Mountaineers had lost three games in a row and had their doors blown off in both of their previous two games. With the immediate future waning, WVU recovered, earning an 87-81 victory over Texas Tech.
The confidence level of this young team has often been questioned on both an individual and collective basis this year.
However, the thought of West Virginia going through a hangover after a tough stretch was quickly wiped away.
“At some points I think we would (lack confidence),” said sophomore guard Terry Henderson. “Especially when we would get down and we’d be playing from behind. We tried to respond and had a great game.”
Henderson scored a team-high and career-high 28 points in the win. He shot 10-of-13 from the field and said he thought it would be a good night for him during warm-ups.
Henderson and several of his teammates, including guards Eron Harris and Juwan Staten, have preached taking one game at a time and always look toward the next name on the schedule.
The Mountaineers didn’t just talk that talk, they showed it Wednesday.
“Good shooters like Ray Allen and Reggie Miller always say they don’t look at the last shot they took, they look at the next shot,” Henderson said. “They forget about the past.”
Henderson later admitted that his poor performance in WVU’s 78-56 loss to Kansas State will likely be in the back of his mind for the remainder of the season. He shot just 1-of-8 and scored just two points in 28 minutes.
However, Henderson’s and his teammates’ mind-set may just be to forget the past – good or bad. Considering the number of close games they couldn’t close and several wins West Virginia had to grind out, it might not be a bad thing to think.
If a game in late January could be any sort of a “must-win” stipulation, Wednesday was it.
Now sitting at 11-8 and an even 3-3 inside the Big 12, West Virginia will face eight of its next nine games against ranked opponents. The stretch begins Saturday against No. 11 Oklahoma State and won’t end until after a Feb. 26 road trip to No. 16 Iowa State.
The Mountaineers still remain even-keeled. The confidence and morale remains high, and the target of winning the league is still within reach.
“We’re a game away from being in second place, and that’s crazy motivation right there,” Henderson said. “This league is wide open. The top teams are losing left and right, every night. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.”