WVU battles Villanova in Big East clash
Published: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Updated: Thursday, February 3, 2011 21:02
The West Virginia men's basketball team found themselves at the bottom of the Big East Conference standings two games into the conference season.
Shortly thereafter, the Mountaineers suffered an embarrassing loss to in-state rival Marshall and lost leading scorer Casey Mitchell to suspension and center Dan Jennings, who quit the season.
The team, however, has done everything in its power to turn its troubles into a solid stretch of basketball, which included two-straight wins over Cincinnati and Seton Hall and a near upset of No. 19 Louisville on the road.
"Some stuff that you think may be bad, or is a negative, can become a positive," said forward Deniz
Kilicli. "In our situation, we lost two guys, and now, we have to play harder and stay in the game."
Forward Kevin Jones said the past two weeks could be a time that defines this season's team. And despite the roster adjustments, the junior said the team's chemistry has grown behind the senior leadership of Joe Mazzulla, John Flowers and Cam Thoroughman.
"Everybody is playing for each other on this team, and nobody is down," Kilicli said. "Everyone is clicking, and nobody is quitting."
Thoroughman says many of his teammates are savoring the opportunity they have, despite the fact the team has just eight healthy scholarship players.
The Mountaineers were once 14th in the Big East Conference standings, but now find themselves tied for second with a 6-3 league mark.
"We are really taking pride in our situation right now," Throughman said. "We have really bought into (head coach Bob Huggins') plan."
Huggins has said the difference in the team's turnaround has been its defensive play. The Mountaineers have allowed an average of 50 points in their last four games.
Wednesday against Seton Hall, the Mountaineers held the Pirates to 44 points – a school record for a Big East game.
"We are playing hard, and we are playing for each other," Throughman said. "When someone gets beat, we are there for each other."
But, with seven of its next nine games coming against ranked opponents, including its matchup against No. 12 Villanova Saturday, WVU knows it still has plenty of work ahead of it.
"We are not out of the woods yet," Throughman said. "We just have to continue to do the things we are good at."