Although I was able to attend WVU’s home basketball game against ranked TCU on Wednesday, I was probably like most Mountaineer fans.
When the 17-point West Virginia lead dwindled down to two points with 5:14 remaining, that proverbial pit in the stomach developed. I thought it was about to be displaced by a really, really hard gut punch — one the Mountaineers probably wouldn’t be able to overcome the rest of the season.
But something happened on Wednesday, something that took me back to a Christmas cartoon of a month ago. The Mountaineers’ collective heart grew. They pulled away. They won 74-65 to move to 11-7 and a fresh No. 24 NET ranking.
For the moment, anyway, new life was breathed into the season. You could feel it in the Coliseum. You could hear it in the voice of WVU coach Bob Huggins, who said he hopes this gives his team new confidence.
“I hope a lot,” he said. “I don’t know. I got them together after the Oklahoma game and I said, ‘Fellas, we’re going home for three of four, let’s go win. Let’s go win four.’ All of a sudden, we’re 4-5 [in Big 12 play], and it looks a whole lot different. We’ll go from there.”
What was disheartening for WVU was TCU’s 15-point rally.
“I think [TCU] came out with an edge,” Huggins said. “We didn’t come out with the same kind of edge, and we got a little careless with the ball I don’t know how many times.”
What was heartening for WVU was the composure and finish.
“They were good in the huddle,” Huggins said of his players. “They were probably better than I was.”
TCU coach Jamie Dixon said, yes, there was some “fool’s gold” in WVU’s previous record, especially the 0-5 league mark.
“We knew what the record was, but we also knew that their NET is how high it is,” Dixon said. “We knew their NET and their [now No. 23] KENPOM [rankings] were all high… We knew how good they were. We knew how physical they were going to play, and they were even more physical than that. They came out as we expected and probably took it up a notch as the game went on.”
All WVU fans know the season is far from saved. Yet a loss to TCU probably would have been the season death knell. The home team’s fans probably felt it with 5:14 left.
But for the moment the bell has not tolled for thee Mountaineers.
“I think we all realize we’ve had opportunities, and we just kind of give them away,” Huggins said. “We had an opportunity to beat Oklahoma at Oklahoma. We had an opportunity to beat Oklahoma State at Oklahoma State. We’ve had plenty of opportunities. We maybe could have been a whole lot better off than we are right now. Right now, though, I’ll settle for just winning one. It was good to win one.”
Indeed, the bell has not been rung.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.