WVU hosts Texas Tech
MORGANTOWN — Do you remember when you were first learning how to ride a bicycle and you fell off and then you got back on?
Well, West Virginia fell off its bicycle Monday night in Kansas and now it must hop back on and get ready for an outstanding Texas Tech team in the WVU Coliseum this afternoon.
The ball goes into the air at 2 p.m. ESPN2 will carry the game nationally.
The Red Raiders are coming off an 84-78 home victory over No. 4 Baylor, and nearly knocked off third-ranked Kansas last Saturday in Lubbock.
Tech already owns a 77-76 in overtime win over No. 9 West Virginia in Lubbock back on January 3 and it also has quality league wins over Kansas State and TCU.
Beating the 17-9 Red Raiders will be difficult enough without having to deal with the psychological fallout from Monday night’s loss in Lawrence as West Virginia couldn’t preserve its 14-point lead with three minutes remaining.
Bob Huggins hasn’t seen his teams lose late leads very often during a 35-year coaching career that includes 811 victories, and you could sense from listening to him talk to reporters on Friday morning that the Kansas game is going to stick with him for a while — quite possibly forever.
“Losing a game is like losing a day,” he said. “There’s nothing you can ever do about it. You can’t get it back. It’s all gone.
“That’s what nobody understands. When you lose a game or when you lose a day, you’re never going to get it back,” he said.
And while it may not be forgotten, what the players choose to do from this point forward will ultimately define what type of season 2017 becomes — not how they lost to Kansas.
With the exception of Gonzaga, every other team in the country right now is dealing with coulda-shoulda-wouldas.
Villanova had five of them to think about before winning six in a row to claim last year’s national championship.
There are 12 teams in this week’s top 25 with five losses already. Five more are about to get to five defeats and six more will probably get there before March Madness begins in two weeks.
No, Villanova didn’t pack it in when it lost by 23 to Oklahoma, or when it lost by 11 at Virginia, or when it lost by six to Providence in overtime, or when it lost by seven at Xavier, or when it lost by two to Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament championship game.
The Wildcats simply climbed back on their bicycle and rode it all the way to Houston.
Huggins wants to see his basketball team do the same thing now and play with a purpose for the rest of the season.
“We’re going to play with an edge,” he said. “They were really good in practice yesterday. It was probably the best practice we’ve had in a long time. I think we can use (the Kansas defeat).
“I want an edge, I want to coach with an edge, I want our guys to play with an edge and I told them yesterday, ‘Let’s just go win out and play them again in the conference tournament,'” he added.
Huggins then pointed out toward the floor where associate head coach Larry Harrison was working with redshirt freshman center Logan Routt.
“Look at Larry,” Huggins joked, “he’s taking his frustration out down there by guarding a 7-footer. Watch him. And he was a guard.”
Regardless of Monday’s outcome, Huggins said the initial plan was to give his team two days off following the Kansas game to get them rested and recovered for the stretch run. He indicated his guys looked sharp in practice on Thursday.
After Texas Tech, West Virginia has another quick turnaround with a Big Monday tilt at 9 p.m. against Texas at the Coliseum.
Then, it’s on the road for very difficult games at TCU and Baylor within a span of span of 72 hours leading up to the regular season finale against Iowa State at the Coliseum on March 3.
The Mountaineers (20-6, 8-5) have already done enough to get into the Big Dance. The remainder of the season is about getting in the right frame of mind to make a run — which Huggins’ teams have done so frequently through the years.
However, a guy who has been doing this for 35 years admitted he can’t honestly know for sure what his players are feeling right now, even when he knows how he feels.
“How do you really honestly know?” he admitted. “You try and talk to them and for the most part they are pretty honest with you, but I don’t know if they know. You go into a routine and all of a sudden the routine breaks and people react differently.”
Which makes today’s game against the Red Raiders so compelling to watch, or, for that matter, watching college basketball games in general at this time of year.