There was a possible turning point in the season for the WVU men’s basketball team on Saturday when they ended a three-game losing streak with their win over Oklahoma.
WVU (10-12, 2-7 Big 12) played with a level of effort that was not seen during the losing streak and, just as it’s been all season, when the team plays with that much intensity, they have positive results.
“I think we’re playing harder again,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins after the Oklahoma victory. “I think we can beat anybody in this league if we play hard. We played awfully hard in the Kansas game and we played hard in this game. Now we’ve got to start to play hard every game.”
After playing hard and getting the win over Oklahoma, the Mountaineers now have to take that momentum and put it towards their Monday night matchup at 16th-ranked Texas Tech.
Texas Tech (17-5, 5-4) and West Virginia already faced each other once this season, ending in a 62-59 Red Raiders victory.
WVU had multiple chances to win that game and when they didn’t, it deflated them and led to a five-game losing streak.
The Mountaineers didn’t play with effort through much of that game or during the losing streak, but if they can on Monday, they will have the opportunity to revenge their early season loss.
It may be difficult, but West Virginia will have to focus much of its attention on defense to Texas Tech’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Jarrett Culver.
The 6-foot-6 guard ranks third in the Big 12 with an 18.1 points per game scoring average on a proficient 51 percent shooting clip.
Not only is Culver the team-leader in scoring, but he paces the Red Raiders in rebounding and assists too, at 6.8 and 3.8 per game, respectively.
The Mountaineer with the unfavorable job of stopping Culver is most likely junior forward Wesley Harris.
Harris had the responsibility of guarding Culver in the Jan. 2 matchup and is usually the Mountaineer who Huggins decides to stick on the opposing team’s best player.
Culver had the advantage on Harris on the Jan. 2 matchup, though, when he finished with his season average of 18 points and Harris fouled out of the game, exiting with just three points on 1-7 shooting.
It will take a collective effort from WVU on Monday night to stop — or merely slow down — Culver, but the Mountaineers may be able to accomplish it with the boost they got from their last win.
West Virginia played its best game since Jan. 19 (when they beat then 7th-ranked Kansas) on Saturday, and much of it was because of their increased energy and better practices leading up to the game.
“Practices this week were enthusiastic,” Huggins said. “They weren’t good, but they were enthusiastic. We still threw it everywhere, but we played with a little bit of emotion.”
West Virginia will need to continue playing with that emotion for the rest of the season, and it starts at Texas Tech on Monday night.
Tip-off between the Mountaineers and Red Raiders is set for 9 p.m.