To call the Mountaineers horrible in the first half would be a massive understatement. It truly looked as if no one on the roster cared even in the slightest about the result of the game, as West Virginia dug itself a 24-point lead by halftime.
Nothing went right. Shooting, rebounding, defense -- all of them were so far beyond abysmal that even the crowd of 9,413 diehard fans (who showed up for the last home game of what has been a miserable season) seemed despondent.
But a funny thing happened on the way to what looked like another embarrassing loss. Players found the passion that had been lying dormant for the better part of the year and channeled their emotions into what was a riveting comeback.
Down by as many as 27 points with fewer than 16 minutes to play, WVU fought like hell. First came a 10-0 run to get back within 17. Then the lead continued to slowly dwindle -- down to 10, then briefly back up to 17.
But the Mountaineers didn't pack it in. They scrapped. They defended. They made shots. Back within 10 on a pair of Aaric Murray free throws after a flagrant foul call. Then down to seven after a Terry Henderson 3-pointer that made the crowd truly start to believe.
"We played," coach Bob Huggins said. "Earlier in the year, we may not have played that hard in the second half after playing that poorly in the first half."
It sent reporters -- this one included -- scrambling for the record books. The biggest comeback in NCAA basketball history was almost 20 years earlier, a 1994 game in which Kentucky came back from 31 points behind in the second half to stun LSU. This one would have only been four points shy of that mark.
West Virginia got as close as four points at 76-72 with less than one minute remaining on a second-consecutive score in transition by Terry Henderson after a steal by Matt Humphrey. Players, coaches, fans -- everyone started to believe.
It wasn't quite enough. And while it's far too late for moral victories at this point in the season, the Mountaineers were in the odd position of being both frustrated and encouraged by what had transpired. They showed they could play well enough to get off the mat -- but knew they should have never been in such a deep hole in the first place.
"I know this team can do this for 40 [minutes]," senior Deniz Kilicli said. "It is just a matter of getting together and being mentally tougher than what we [have been].
"I think everybody played together in the second half. They didn't want to lose. It was the first time this year I felt like we were like a wolfpack."
Kilicli laughed at that statement, perhaps drawing a comparison to "The Hangover" movies. But he was right. Everyone, for once, seemed to care. Aaric Murray. Kilicli. Humphrey. The freshmen. For a few fleeting moments, it clicked.
And that left just a bit of hope that maybe -- just maybe -- this team could do something to salvage in next week's Big 12 Championship to salvage a bit of pride from a season that has tried the character of these Mountaineers.
"It's never too late as long as you have the conference tournament," Huggins said. "As long as you're still standing, you might as well fight."