After a hot start to open Big 12 play, the West Virginia men’s basketball team has dropped two consecutive crucial home conference contests, plummeting the Mountaineers to second worst in the entire league in collective winning percentage.
The two-game skid matches WVU’s longest losing streak of the year and is the second time in six games the Mountaineers have dropped back-to-back contests.
It’s also only the second time West Virginia has dropped consecutive conference games at home since joining the Big 12, and with a full slate of formidable league opponents still on tap, the Mountaineers are indeed facing a potentially dire situation.
But even amid this tumultuous stretch, there have been some bright spots for West Virginia basketball, and one of them has been sophomore guard Terry Henderson.
After leading WVU in 3-point efficiency as a true freshman in 2013, Henderson actually began this season in a very unfamiliar spot – on the bench.
A shin injury – although not shin-splints, according to WVU head coach Bob Huggins – initially kept Henderson in street clothes during the Mountaineers’ season opener and then limited him noticeably during WVU’s next two appearances.
However, following that modest start, Henderson has not only worked his way back into the starting lineup, he’s also resumed his roles as one of the Mountaineers’ primary offensive options and one of the Big 12’s premier perimeter players.
“Terry’s been getting better and better,” Huggins said. “He was hurt early, and he got kind of behind. And honestly, he still hasn’t shot the ball very well, but he really gets in there and works at it.
“And he listens. He listens to try to do what you ask him to do. He’s a guy who’s always made shots, and he’s got good bounce. So he ought to be able to rebound it and block some shots, because he does have really good bounce.”
Henderson has reached double-figures in nine of his last 10 games, including his last five times on the floor.
His 16-point effort against Texas Monday marked his third consecutive game with 16 points or more, and Henderson is averaging 14.8 points and 4 rebounds per game since returning to the starting lineup eight games ago.
Henderson also notched a season-high 21 points against No. 11 Oklahoma State Saturday to go along with six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.
“From the jump I kind of took it personal,” Henderson said. “I knew that they (Oklahoma State) were a great team, and I knew we’d have a great supporting cast behind us with our fans.
“I feel like we were ready to play. It was time to leave it all out on there on the court. You’ve got Marcus Smart, who’s probably going to be a top-5 draft pick. Why not go at him, you know? That’s just how I felt.”
But Henderson also said that for the Mountaineers to be successful the rest of this season he and his teammates need to focus on more than just their scoring and perimeter shooting.
“We’ve got to do some soul-searching individually. Huggs has hold us that we need to come in here and work on our weaknesses, which are defense and rebounding,” Henderson said. “It really just comes down to a heart thing. There’s nothing you can really work on, just when it comes down to crunch time you’ve got to execute.
“It’s just mental mistakes down the stretch. We’re still a young team and we need to go through some adversity to bounce back off that.”