WVU Tries Growing from Losses - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Tries Growing from Losses

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MORGANTOWN -

Counting losses as their season's best performances will not get the West Virginia Mountaineers much of anywhere.

Falling to its previous two ranked opponents at home by a combined score of six points, Bob Huggins' team has shown that with the right challenge and the excitement of a friendly crowd, WVU can find a way to perform better than what it has shown for much of a disappointing season.

"It was definitely the bench and then being at home and having the support and all the fans cheering you on helps you a lot, keeps you motivated," junior center Aaric Murray said to explain the intensity he and his teammates showed Monday night. "Just wanted to get that win and get that upset."

Since they didn't, though, all the Mountaineers really have to show for hanging tough with Kansas State and Kansas are losses No. 7 and 11.

What the more veteran players on the team are hoping they can take from those setbacks is a bit of confidence with the knowledge that they didn't go down without a fight in either of their previous two games against ranked opponents.

"For me, it gives me something to say to the freshman and stuff, like you guys played well against the No. 2 team in the country, so who do we have left? Nobody that's better than Kansas," Murray said. "So it's like we can just use that as motivation to know how good we are and where we stand."

Where they stand is probably not where the Mountaineers want to focus, but perhaps where they could be going can be. At 9-11 with a 2-5 showing in the Big 12, WVU is steadily pushing itself from any meaningful postseason competition. The positives that could normally be taken from a close loss to a top 5 team fall by the wayside when considering the beating Huggins' crew took at an unranked team's gym just prior to that.

The path laid out before this group is its own doing, placed there by their own imperfections in the previous 20 games. If they are to accomplish any of what they set out to achieve when the season began, the Mountaineers know there is no longer any room for mistakes.

"We have to win games. We have to win every game we have now, no matter where we go, we should have no fear to go and win a game," sophomore guard Gary Browne said. "That's our only chance that we have to make the NCAA Tournament."

In truth, the team that shot 37 percent against the Jayhawks, while holding a top 50 scoring team to 15 points below its season average, looked good enough to make the tournament. If that intensity and effort showed up for 40 minutes against all but two or three teams on the schedule, those games likely would have ended in wins for WVU.

Huggins was asked on Monday if he thought his players realized that they would have racked up more victories with similar performances earlier in the year.

"You guys keep asking me do they realize. How the hell do I know? I mean, honest to God, I don't know," Huggins said. "Should they? Yes. Do they? I don't know. We've got guys who have done it for more than a year now."

The growth that Huggins has been looking for from those on his roster with some sort of previous experience is not what it should be and the result is he never quite knows what he should expect when he puts a lineup on the court.

"I just never know what we're going to do. Seems like when we've made shots, we've missed free throws. When the offense kind of ran, we didn't guard," said Huggins, noting that on Monday, WVU did guard in forcing 16 turnovers. "I think if we do what we're supposed to do, we can turnover just about anybody when you get that much pressure."

Ultimately, two losses may be the biggest proof of what the Mountaineers are capable of, even if they can't be used toward a postseason resume going forward. What matters to WVU now is that the team does not pack it in, but rather build on the positives.

"We've just got to continue fighting," said Dominique Rutledge. "Guys in that locker room, we're not quitting."

With 11 games remaining in the regular season, there is no time to quit.

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