A shift in momentum is just what the West Virginia men’s basketball team needed before heading into a grueling stretch of their conference schedule.
WVU defeated the 15-7 Kansas State Wildcats at home, 81-71 Saturday. Entering the game, both teams showed plenty of promise during their first eight games of the conference season, and WVU’s big win could put it back in the postseason discussion.
WVU (13-9, 5-4 Big 12) is currently riding a two-game win streak before facing Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa State and Texas – all of which are ranked in the AP top 25.
But don’t tell that to head coach Bob Huggins. He doesn’t even know the schedule.
“I haven’t paid attention, to be honest,” Huggins said. “I know we play Oklahoma, but I have no idea who we play after that, and I don’t care, really.”
With 13 wins, the Mountaineers have already equaled their win total from last season, and their 5-4 conference record is 2.5 behind Kansas. Saturday’s victory over the Wildcats could go a long way in revitalizing this team’s confidence and increasing the chances of postseason success.
“We’ve been saying all year that we’re close,” said senior guard Juwan Staten. “We’re playing with a lot heart right now. We hope to win more games like this, because our confidence is really high right now.”
The Mountaineers will welcome the Oklahoma Sooners to town Wednesday, which will enter the game with a 17-5 record and 6-3 record in Big 12 play. The Sooners are lead by sophomore guard Buddy Hield, who leads the team in nearly every offensive category and records 17 points per game.
The Mountaineers will then travel to Lawrence, Kan., for a Saturday matinee against the Jayhawks. Offensively, Kansas is led by freshman guard Andrew Wiggins with 16 points per game.
“We tell (the players) to not look ahead,” Huggins said. “Honestly, I don’t know who we play, where, when or anything like that. We must play Kansas (soon) because everybody keeps calling and wanting tickets. Other than ticket requests, that’s the only time I think about it.”
Of their nine remaining conference games, the Mountaineers will see Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas twice. With an out-of-conference record of 8-5, WVU needs more wins against top-quality, resume-building teams. These next four games will go a long way in determining WVU’s success this season.
“We’re proving some people right and proving ourselves right,” said sophomore guard Eron Harris. “We can’t get too happy. We can’t get too down. We gotta be where we are and doing what we must do to win.”