Column - WVU must stay on right track after win over Pitt
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 00:02
On Feb. 5, a struggling West Virginia team made the trip up to Providence after losing its last three games.
In a must-win situation, the Mountaineers responded and found a way to earn a hard-fought overtime victory over the Friars.
Then they fell back into what they had been doing, by losing two games at home to Notre Dame and Louisville.
With its postseason fate up in the air, West Virginia traveled to the Petersen Events Center and put a beating on Pittsburgh on its home court.
Wins like that can do a lot for a young, struggling team like West Virginia.
But, then again, so could a win like the one they had against Providence a few weeks earlier.
A change like the one needed by the Mountaineers at the end of the year won't come from just one game— they have to find a way to keep it going throughout the final four games left on the schedule.
At the end of the year, the teams with good leaders seem to have a lot of success.
If the Mountaineers want to find a way to carry this momentum they have following their win over the Panthers into this final stretch of the season, they're going to have to rely on their leaders to step up and do what they've done all season.
Luckily for West Virginia, its leaders have been pretty good at doing that.
"Me and Truck and Deniz have to take it upon ourselves to not let the underclassmen slip up," said senior forward Kevin Jones. "We've got to keep playing hard and together; that's the only way we're going to win.
"We've got to keep playing hard every possession."
If anything, this might be the perfect time for West Virginia to have battle-tested veterans like Jones, senior Truck Bryant and junior Deniz Kilicli.
They've struggled. They know what it's like to be down.
And they know what it takes to persevere and find ways to have success.
These are three players who have been to a Final Four, and their experiences throughout their careers – both the ups and the downs – will help them teach the younger players on this WVU team how to handle the difficult tasks associated with Big East Conference tournament.
Plenty of times in the last month or so, those three have had to show the freshmen that when you're playing in the Big East, you can't get too down when you're struggling. That's no way to snap out of it.
But, at the same time, they know that they can't get too high after just winning one game.
They've got to continue moving forward, or else another team will catch them off guard. And at this point in the season, every loss could end up costing the Mountaineers an NCAA tournament bid.
West Virginia's win over Pittsburgh was huge— there's no doubt about it.
But rest assured, the Mountaineers are focused and ready to take on the task at hand that will come tonight when they get another tough road task against Notre Dame.
"At the end of the day, we're ready to play," Bryant said. "They came into Morgantown and took a game from us just like Pitt did. That's definitely something that we've got in the back of our heads.
"This game (against Pitt) is over with, now we've got Notre Dame, and we've got to go back to the drawing board and get ready."