The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

January 25, 2014

‘Make or break’ time for WVU

MORGANTOWN — Coming off a nice home win over Texas Tech in which they gave indications of how good a team they can be on the offensive side of the ball, the West Virginia University Mountaineers head into a month-long stretch of games that will define their season.

Eight of their next nine games through Feb. 6 are against nationally ranked teams, and the other game is as big a challenge, going to Texas, a team also receiving votes in the polls and possibly ready to move into the Top 25 next week.

The Mountaineer players know what lies ahead for them and how important it is to their post-season chances.

“I would just describe this stretch as college basketball,” point guard Juwan Staten responded when asked to describe this stretch of games. “The Big 12 is definitely a good conference this season, definitely better than we expected, but that’s college basketball. It’s what you dream about, though.

“This stretch here can make or break our season, and we’re looking forward to it. We just need to come out with a sense of urgency and punch teams in the mouth from the jump ball.”

This is the way the games come about:

Today — At No. 11-12 Oklahoma State

Jan. 28 — At No. 23-24 Baylor

Feb. 1 – No. 22 Kansas State

Feb. 5 – No. 25 Oklahoma

Feb. 8 — At No. 8-11 Kansas

Feb. 10 – No. 16-17 Iowa State

Feb. 15 — At Texas

Feb. 22 – No. 23-24 Baylor

Feb. 26 – No. 16-17 Iowa State

West Virginia missed post-season play last season and wants to make up for that.

But doing that won’t be easy and it will require Staten, Terry Henderson and Eron Harris to have more games like the Texas Tech encounter when Henderson carved out a new career high of 28 points, Harris contributed 15 and Staten scored 16 with seven assists.

“When Terry makes shots we’re a great team,” Staten said.

And Henderson, brimming with confidence, should blossom after having his best game since coming to WVU from Raleigh, N.C.

This is a rematch coming up with Oklahoma State at 2 p.m. In the season’s first meeting in Morgantown, WVU almost pulled off a stunning upset.

Markel Brown hit a 3-point field goal for the Cowboys, his only 3 of the game, with 15 seconds left to lift them to a 73-72 victory, and then Staten missed a driving layup that could have won the game and Marcus Smart made a spectacular play to break up the rebound as Devin Williams was about to secure with a chance to hit a follow.

“We’re close,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins at the time. “Our problem is that we have a whole bunch of freshmen who don’t understand that when you stop playing hard that people take advantage of you. When you stop playing hard, then they do that.”

Especially a team as talented as Oklahoma State, which is led by Marcus Smart, whom many consider to be among the top candidates for Naismith Player of the Year in college basketball. Toss in Brown, Le’Bryan Nash and Michael Cobbins, and you have an all-star cast of characters.

Nearly pulling off the upset gave WVU a midseason lift.

“As young as we are, that game gave us the belief that we can play with anybody,” Huggins said. “We have a little more bounce in our step and got more confidence back.

“You guard a little better. You play with more enthusiasm.

“They had a guy make the game-winning shot who hasn’t made a shot in a month. If he misses that, we win. If we make our layup, we win. Then there was Marcus Smart, to break up the rebound from where he came from, to me, that’s the play of the year. That’s a player.

“We’re going to try to fix some things in the zone to stop the things that hurt us.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball

    It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
    Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

  • WVU baseball drops seventh straight game

    One’s athletic skills are tested on a daily basis but every so often other aspects of an athlete’s makeup are tested, often far more important aspects in the game of life.

    April 14, 2014

  • Gold-Blue Game answers few questions at quarterback

    Dana Holgorsen finds himself in a quarterback quandary.
    He’s looking to have one quarterback and has five of them as spring practice ends, and nothing about the spring session has done anything to straighten out the situation.

    April 13, 2014

  • Moore ‘back at home’ under center

    There are a couple of ways to look at what Logan Moore did this spring after being moved back to quarterback and given a chance to compete for what is a wide open job, as wide open at the end of the spring as it was coming in.
    The first is to say that he didn’t wow Dana Holgorsen to the point that he’s willing to say he’s the leader going into summer drills, but that would be shortsighted considering from where Moore came.

    April 13, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU punter turns heads at linebacker

    They call him “Huey the Punter.”
    His real name is Houstin Syvertson. His real position is not punter. Not anymore, anyway.
    To be honest, until Saturday’s spring game, not many people following West Virginia football knew the name or the nickname. They know it now.

    April 13, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads