Beat Kansas at home on a Monday and then be a ranked team on the road five days later and you’re going to feel pretty good about yourself. The Mountaineers are riding high right now and were ranked No. 20 in Monday’s Associated Press poll when a week ago it was fair to wonder if’ they’d have a spot in the top 25.
And here comes Texas … right on time?
The Longhorns have won the past four games in the series by 11, 17, 17 and 27 points and led by at least 21 in each.
“We’re definitely feeling some type of way about that game and how it went in Texas,” WVU point guard Juwan Staten said after Saturday’s 73-63 road win against then-No. 22 Oklahoma State. “There should be a little extra, added motivation.”
The Mountaineers (21-6, 9-5 Big 12), who have played eight of their conference games against ranked teams and two more against a team that was ranked previously, were No. 23 last week and will rise in Monday’s poll after beating the Cowboys and No. 8 Kansas. In six days, they doubled their win total against top-25 teams, and the back-to-back wins followed stretches of three losses in four games by 20, 19 and 18 points and four losses in eight games.
The longer stretch began with the road loss to the Longhorns (17-10, 6-8). WVU finished with the season’s worst totals for points, baskets (13), field goal percentage (24.1), assists (five), rebounding margin (minus-12) and points off turnovers (eight).
“We want them, to be honest,” said WVU forward Devin Williams, who has 13 points and 10 rebounds in four career games against Texas and its formidable frontcourt. “They’re a great team and we respect that team. They have some great big men, some great guards and a great coach, stuff like that, but we’re going after them.”
You get a firm feeling the Mountaineers want to play, and of course to win, this game because this team is continually trying to prove itself in the presence of doubts. Too young. Can’t shoot. Weary legs. Ridiculous schedule. Somehow, some way, WVU still has a look at the conference title with four games to go, so why is a win at home against a team below .500 in conference play out of the realm of possibility?
Matchups, maybe, and that hasn’t shifted to favor or even be kinder to WVU.
And so conversely, it might be true that the Mountaineers are coming along at the right time for Texas, too. The Longhorns didn’t look right before playing WVU last month and haven’t looked right since, save a three-game winning streak … against Kansas State, TCU and Texas Tech. Texas is playing for its postseason life, and, who knows, Rick Barnes might be coaching for his job. Whatever the circumstances, the Longhorns haven’t found good wins or won big games with a 1-9 record against the RPI top 50.