With about five minutes to go in its game vs. Texas on Wednesday night, I thought it might be. But, then the Mountaineers turned into Bob Huggins’ team for the first time – maybe ever for this group – and found a way to defeat the Longhorns 57-53 in overtime at the Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.
For about seven minutes last night, center Aaric Murray looked like the stud he is always played up to be. He finished with a double-double, and most of that came within the comeback late in the second half and in overtime. The number of offensive rebounds he created in overtime specifically make him a force to reckoned with in the Big 12 – if he puts forth the effort.
It would be wrong of me not to mention forward Deniz Kilicli, too, because he brought the Mountaineers back in the game offensively after nobody thought anybody on the roster could. WVU started to throw it inside, because, well, nobody else was scoring, and it was just enough to allow some other players to get started, too.
The player of the game had to be forward Kevin Noreen, who drained a three late in the game that opened up the air-tight seal on the rim. His 13 rebounds were a career-high.
Other players stepped up, too, like freshman Eron Harris, who hit the go-ahead three in regulation and forward Dominique Rutledge, who started and then despite foul trouble was able to make an impact with his athleticism and effort.
WVU has to continue to do the things that head coach Bob Huggins is asking, and maybe the team learned from this game.
What should they have learned, you ask?
Well, frontcourt players should now know that with effort comes success and opportunity.
Backcourt players need to know that silly turnovers aren’t going to cut it anymore.
Apparently, point guard Juwan Staten needs to know that this is Huggins’ team and not Staten’s team.
Every player should know that they should give as much effort as Noreen does on every play in every game. They need to know that playing as a team and believing in each other will make up for a lot of mistakes. In time, that will come.
Realistically, West Virginia waited a month too long to have a game like this happen. While other NCAA tournament-type teams are tweaking things here and there, the Mountaineers are basically starting over each game.
There’s a long way to go before tweaks are the only thing Huggins and his staff will have to worry about.
Still, a win like this is something to build on. I’m sure every coach will tell you that proving points in wins is a lot easier than in losses.
The Mountaineers sit now with an 8-6 record before they take on Kansas State at home on Saturday. It’s going to be interesting to see exactly what West Virginia learned from the last few minutes of Wednesday’s game. It could be a significant difference.
But, there have been moments already this season where you thought something would change, and it didn’t.
This is the point of no return. It has to be the turning point of the Mountaineers’ season, otherwise it’s going to be too late.