Column - WVU’s win over Providence came at perfect time
Published: Monday, February 6, 2012
Updated: Monday, February 6, 2012 23:02
Following its loss to Pittsburgh last Monday, the West Virginia men's basketball team found itself in territory it hadn't been in all season.
The Mountaineers had lost three straight Big East Conference games and was on the verge of slipping into the bubble and an NCAA tournament bid could have been in jeopardy.
They needed a win against Providence Sunday.
And – they got it.
Not only did West Virginia win, but it did so by getting the type of performances it had been hoping to get for a long time.
For a considerable amount of time Sunday afternoon, the Mountaineers were trailing. Providence started the game making just about every shot it took. And, much like in their game against St. John's, the Mountaineers found themselves trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half.
Against the Red Storm, when it was faced with a large first-half deficit, West Virginia faltered. It wasn't able to fight its way back, mostly because the players looked to for leadership struggled to get on track.
That had been a problem in all three losses.
With the exception of senior forward Kevin Jones, the Mountaineers' three upperclassmen weren't able to play the way they had through the first 20 games of the season.
When their team needed them the most, senior guard Truck Bryant and junior forward Deniz Kilicli came to play against the Friars.
In the first half, it looked like Bryant was going to struggle again. He made two shots of his first eight shot attempts and turned the ball over once. Bryant and Kilicli, along with another steady performance by Jones, were masterful in the final 20 minutes, when the game was on the line.
Bryant made seemingly
every clutch shot he took toward the end of the game, including the eventual game-winning three-pointer with 10 seconds to play in overtime and a layup to tie the game with four seconds to play in regulation to force overtime.
He finished with 32 points, and Kilicli had his first 20-point game of his career, finishing with 22.
Those two contributing the way they did made it easier on Jones, who has had to carry this team the whole season.
There were plenty of chances in that game for the Mountaineers to lay down and quit like it had done so much over the three games before they took down the Friars.
They didn't do that Sunday. They understood what the game meant, and the three upperclassmen did their part in making sure the losing streak stopped there.
Their work isn't done yet, though.
From here on out, every game will be just as important as Sunday's was. WVU has to come to play every night if it wants to continue to
polish its resume for the NCAA tournament.
Jones, Bryant and Kilicli all have the ability to step up and make big plays to help push West Virginia to a win.
Truck showed that ability at the end of the Providence game, and it helped end the terrible slump the Mountaineers had been in.
But, they can't be satisfied with that.
They have to carry that momentum over to Wednesday's game against Notre Dame and throughout the rest of the season.