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WVU Must Shape Up with Big 12 Ahead

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MORGANTOWN -

It is difficult to know what can be learned from a game in which your team handles the other by nearly 40 points.

West Virginia's women's basketball team has experienced it throughout the 2013 season and the men's program had a similar situation in its last outing against William and Mary.

With the exception of the debacle at Virginia Tech, the Mountaineers have done well to handle the teams they should beat, but they have fallen short against the real competition. There won't be many cupcakes from this point on, with Big 12 play getting underway this weekend in Fort Worth.

Still, Juwan Staten believes something can be gained from beating a team like the Tribe 82-45.

"It's a confidence booster," said the junior point guard. "It lets us know that we're still as good as we think we are, even though we need to get better."

There has been plenty of questioning in and around the locker room, especially after WVU dropped a very winnable game when it hosted Purdue. When the players returned from their holiday break and began refocusing on the rest of the schedule, there was a sense from the coaching staff that a shake up was needed.

"Practice was pretty intense," said freshman forward Nathan Adrian. "[Bob Huggins] was getting into us like he should. We should have never lost that game, but apparently it worked, so hopefully he keeps doing it."

It seems like Huggins is a head coach who would be more than willing to oblige his students if they asked him for more intensity. But perhaps that is what will work for this team, one that Huggins clearly expects to find success.

"This week in practice, we had a lot more people talking," said Staten. "Usually it's just a couple of the captains speaking and the coaches talking in practice, but this week, we had everybody going. Everybody was enthusiastic and really getting on each other and holding each other accountable for what we need to do on the court and I think that's the biggest that we saw out here tonight."

Sunday's blowout was a step in the right direction, Staten called it the best defensive performance of the season, but one big win over a mediocre team can't make these players relax. There is no way they can simply ride that momentum in the conference with the expectation of adding another tally to the win column.

"It's got to be an every day deal," said Huggins. "We guarded better, we rebounded better, but I thought we had some guys that weren't very good. Honestly, it'd be hard for us to survive if we don't have everybody playing pretty well."

Staten was asked after the win over William and Mary if his young team was ready for Big 12 play and his response was simply that they had to be. TCU is Saturday.

"Last year, I think we went a whole season without a true identity. This year, I think we're starting to come into our own and really show what we're about and I think we have an identity," said Staten. "Our bigs are really embracing the role of hitting the glass hard. The ones that can shoot are stepping out, making shots and continuing to defend. Everybody has to defend. I think earlier in the season, we weren't defending together as a team."

If those things don't happen, the Big 12 will take advantage of the young Mountaineers.

"I'm excited to play good competition every night and really test ourselves every night," said Adrian. "Hopefully we can step up like we haven't, but I think we will and we'll pull out some games that we shouldn't."

Huggins said something similar after WVU lost to Virginia Tech, but the wins did not come during non-conference play. Now they must come in the league. If this team is really as improved as it claims, it will show in the results through the coming weeks. 

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