Sweet Sixteen Memories Motivate Mountaineers in Return - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Sweet Sixteen Memories Motivate Mountaineers in Return

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Jevon Carter and the Mountaineers prepare for a Sweet Sixteen match-up with Gonzaga. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle) Jevon Carter and the Mountaineers prepare for a Sweet Sixteen match-up with Gonzaga. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle)
MORGANTOWN -

Jevon Carter doesn’t need to be reminded of the last time his team reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament. He can picture it clearly in his mind. A painful, vivid memory of his first trip to the Sweet Sixteen still burns in his head.

“I just remember that emotionless walk coming off the court,” Carter said. “That same walk I had coming from the Big 12 Tournament this year, last year, last year’s NCAA Tournament. I’m just tired of losing.”

That emotionless walk was at the end of a 78-39 loss to Kentucky in Cleveland. For nearly half of the current roster, Thursday’s return to the Sweet Sixteen represents a chance to set things right.

“We played a tough team,” senior guard Tarik Phillip said of that game in 2015. “I feel like we were just happy to be there. Right now, we’ve been there before, we’ve been in different situations in the NCAA Tournament, so feel like we’re more calm.”

If the Mountaineers are just happy to be on their way to San Jose, they aren’t showing it.

Each pregame press conference in Buffalo consisted of four players who showed little to no emotion, often staring straight ahead, focused on something beyond the reporters crowding the room in search of a quote.

The business-like approach was so evident that it actually became a line of questioning from the media members who couldn’t help but notice the difference in tone between West Virginia’s players and that of their opponent.

“I would think they learned a lot from a year ago,” Huggins said. “Our practices have been better, our preparation has been better. I think our focus has been better. They’ve played in big games in really hard environments and played well. That part of it I don’t think bothers them.”

Carter will tell you that every day when he and his teammates wake up for a game, they do so expecting to win. There is no doubting the game plan or attempting to determine how much harder they may have to play in order to best the other team’s strengths. They simply walk onto the court with the notion that if they play their brand of basketball, then they march on.

After a postseason full of games that largely fell short of their expectations, the 83-71 win over Notre Dame was more along the lines of what Carter wakes up believing his team can do. Still, he doesn’t for a minute think that WVU has played its best game.

“We won’t be there until we win the national championship,” Carter said.

Two years after a bitter Sweet Sixteen, the junior finds himself in a leadership role that he didn’t have coming off of the bench as a freshman.

“I feel like I’ve grown a lot,” Carter said. “I have my ups and downs, but I’ve just got to stay confident in myself and just keep moving forward. I’ve got guys like Nate Adrian, Tarik Phillip – teams captains – they’re always picking us up, making sure we do what we gotta do because it’s their senior year. They don’t want to go home and neither do we.”

That was Carter’s message after Saturday’s win when the Mountaineers turned to acknowledge the fans who filled the seats behind the team bench: “We’re not done.”

The mood in the locker room was celebratory, but not content. It was not one of satisfaction. That can only be accomplished with four more victories.

“We want to go all the way,” senior guard Teyvon Myers said. “That’s what we’re going to do. It’s not just about the Sweet Sixteen or the Elite Eight or the Final Four. We want to go all the way and get Huggy a good one.”

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