The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

January 13, 2014

Mountaineers welcome Texas

There’s no question Saturday’s loss hurt. Bob Huggins and his players looked like a group of kindergarten students who were told Santa Claus had been grounded due to mechanical issues on his sleigh after the 73-72 loss to No. 11 Oklahoma State.

But there’s no time for the Mountaineers (10-6, 2-1 Big 12) to work out the pain. Texas is in town, and an ESPNU audience will have its eyes on Morgantown tonight at 7 p.m. to see how the Mountaineers rebound — in more ways than one.

The Longhorns (12-4, 1-2 Big 12) are also playing on short rest, having knocked off Texas Tech 67-64 Saturday for their first conference win of the year. It’s a difficult assignment for both teams as they look to establish their place in the conference pecking order.

“It’s more of a mental grind now,” said WVU freshman forward Devin Williams, who picked up his fifth double-double of the season in the loss to the Cowboys. “We had the back-to-back in Texas (last weekend against TCU and Texas Tech, both Mountaineer wins), so that can wear you down. We’ve got to come in mentally focused and stay together. That’s the most important priority.

“We’re close. Our record doesn’t reflect what we’re really about. But at the end of the day, it’s about 20-plus (wins). However we’ve got to get it, we’ve got to get it.”

Texas, which got off to a 10-2 start before dropping three of its last five, is led by junior forward Jonathan Holmes, who’s averaging 13 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Javan Felix has also been a major factor, chipping in 11.1 points and 3.1 assists per outing.

What the Longhorns do best is rebound the basketball. They lead the Big 12 with 41.8 rebounds per game, a major concern for a Mountaineer team that has struggled in that category.

WVU, though, may have an edge in some other areas. Texas is last in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, while WVU ranks second. And the Longhorns are scoring 77.8 points per game, compared to a little more than 80 for the Mountaineers.

WVU’s strength is its backcourt, led by sophomore Eron Harris (18.1 ppg) and junior point guard Juwan Staten (17 ppg, 6.13 apg). Terry Henderson is also coming on strong and scored a season-high 21 in the loss to OSU.

“I’m going to keep attacking and being aggressive,” said the sophomore guard, who missed some time early in the year recovering from an injury. “I still have a lot of things to work on in my game, but I’m going to do my best to help this team win.

“A loss is a loss, no matter how you lose. But we know we’re a tough team and have great players on our team. The only thing we can do is build on (the loss to the Cowboys). We know what kind of team we are. We’ve won close games, so we know what it takes.”

Staten, who missed the game-winner when his drive to the bucket rolled off the rim on Saturday, can’t wait to get back on the floor.

“It was one of those bad taste games we don’t want to sit there for a while,” he said. “We want to get back out there and play again and give us a chance to redeem ourselves.”

“We’re trying to win,” agreed Huggins. “The two greatest emotions in the world are winning and losing, and I don’t like (losing).”

— E-mail: andfollow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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