WVU knows it can’t let loss linger
Published: Thursday, March 10, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 10, 2011 22:03
The doors opened to West Virginia's locker room on Wednesday a little before midnight after the Mountaineers' 67-61 loss to Marquette in the second round of the Big East Conference Tournament.
It was not like in past years when WVU has been booted from the conference tournament, though.
There were no tears.
That's not a bad thing, either.
In 2009, when the Mountaineers were ousted in the semifinals by Syracuse, the locker room was filled with emotion.
It was hard for then-senior Alex Ruoff to take his late-season slump. He broke down at his locker that night, and the Mountaineers came out sluggish in the NCAA Tournament, too.
Sure, these players took the Big East Tournament seriously. In no way were the Mountaineers happy following the loss to the Golden Eagles.
But, this team has the feeling of a Final Four in the back of its head. That's something Ruoff didn't have in his time at WVU – and it might have significantly affected that team.
This year's team knows better, though.
"This doesn't change anything," said WVU forward Cam Thoroughman. "Now, we know we have to come out and practice hard every day, and we can't take plays off during the game.
"I'm still very confident in our team."
West Virginia knows its goals don't stop with a Big East title – and they shouldn't. That's the attitude head coach Bob Huggins has instilled in his players.
Even after losing in the Big East Tournament, WVU will play another game.
This one's for the national championship, something the Mountaineers were so close to achieving last year.
To count West Virginia out after losing to Marquette on Wednesday would a mistake. A team that has so much experience isn't going to give up.
"By the time we play our next game, this will definitely be out of our system," Thoroughman said. "We'll have time to rest, and we'll have a lot of days to prepare."
The team has dealt with adversity already this year – and has fought back. It went from second in the Big East one week to 11th a few weeks down the road.
Still, despite being less talented and lacking depth compared to some of the top teams in the Big East, the Mountaineers strung together a late-season finish worthy of any NCAA Tournament team. They beat Notre Dame, Connecticut and Louisville, all top 25 teams and two of the top-three seeds in the Big East Tournament and jumped back into the top 25.
The Mountaineers have a solid NCAA Tournament resume and can do damage if it becomes more consistent.
After the 65-56 victory over UConn on March, 2, forward Kevin Jones said the team used motivation from its critics to come together.
"We've just got to regroup," he said. "This isn't a break that we want, but we have to figure something out, because this can't continue. We want to go out the right way, and the way that we're headed, it's not going to happen."
Those critics were out in full force following WVU's loss to Marquette whether it was on the message boards, on Twitter or in the stands at Madison Square Garden.
It's time for a second dose of motivation. This time, WVU might not even need it, though.
"We're going to get hyped regardless," said senior forward John Flowers. "We're going to get this bitter taste out of our mouths."