Crucial Stretch Ahead for WVU

West Virginia came into Wednesday's game against Texas Tech knowing it was an important one.

That's mostly due to the fact that the Mountaineers were in desperate need of a win against a team that they knew they could beat – and should have been able to take care of in regulation in Lubbock, Texas, a few weeks ago when the two squared off for the first time. But it was one last chance to pick up a win and stop its losing streak before West Virginia went into one of the toughest stretches of its season over the course of the next few weeks.

WVU has no time to sit and savor this victory as six-straight ranked teams await them – eight of its next nine games, with the only team currently unranked being a Texas that is receiving votes in the AP and USA Today Coaches poll and is coming off wins against No. 8 Iowa State and No. 22 Kansas State and will likely be ranked when the two square off again on Feb. 15.

In short, from now on, there can't be many off days for this team like there were in the two games leading up to Wednesday's victory against the Red Raiders. And even tougher is the fact that the only game remaining on the schedule that West Virginia will likely be favored in will be the March 1 showdown at the Coliseum against TCU.

The crazy thing is that Wednesday's game provided the Mountaineers with plenty to build off of, and they showed flashes that could lead you to believe that they might be able to grind their way through that stretch and win a few games. Or they could fall flat and struggle to win any of those games.

Juwan Staten, Eron Harris and Terry Henderson led a WVU offense that showed it can be deadly at times. The three have become the unquestioned leaders and, especially when Devin Williams is providing offense in the low post, can use their versatility and ability to score the basketball in bunches to give this team an offense that can score with any team in the Big 12. But the problem from there is that the Mountaineers have to stop the other team on the defensive side of the ball.

A lot of times this season, when WVU has scored well, it has let opposing teams stay in games by not being able to consistently get stops on the other end to extend its lead. That's going to be a problem when teams like Kansas and Iowa State – and just about every other Big 12 team – comes up on the schedule. West Virginia might have a chance to win some of these games that are on the horizon, but not if they don't stay committed to getting better defensively.

But what's the problem? What has to happen for things to go the way the Mountaineers need them to go on defense?

Some of the players agreed Wednesday night that the key might come just by having everyone on the floor buy completely in to what their supposed to be doing.

Even if four guys are on the same page, that one who is not sure of where he's supposed to be will be the one who gives up an open look – and sometimes, with good teams, seeing one shot go down is all they need to start a big turnaround.

If West Virginia wants to step up and win a few of these games it will desperately need if it wants to be successful this year, it has to be a better defensive teams. Especially if it is going to rely on jump shots as much as it has this year.

The Mountaineers will have games where it won't shoot the ball well, and without defensive improvements, you'll be seeing a lot more games like the Kansas State loss than Wednesday's win.

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