This was a key battle as Huggins tries to fit his team for the rest of the season. WVU hasn’t been able to pull off wins like this in the last two years. And if those previous teams would’ve gone down by 11 at the half, they would’ve easily caved.
This game was different. This team surprised – and not in a bad way.
For the second time this season, the Mountaineers showed the ability to recover from a deficit and a poor first-half performance. That takes some guts, something WVU teams of late have rarely showed.
If West Virginia plays with as much intensity and passion as it did on Friday – particularly in the second half – this basketball team is going to surprise many around the country.
Make no doubt about this game, the Mountaineers earned a huge win regardless of how good Boston College ends up being this season. It has been so long since West Virginia has been able to pull off a win like this against an opponent with a pulse.
Sure, it’s too early in the season to call this a defining win or a program changer, but this should’ve given everyone in the Mountain State a little hope about where this team could go.
Tonight, that hope came from players who have otherwise never been in this type of a situation in a Mountaineer uniform. Jevon Carter hit huge threes during the Mountaineers' comeback. A 3-pointer from Daxter Miles tied the game at 48-48 in the second half. Carter’s steal and layup gave the Mountaineers their first lead seconds later.
Elijah Macon flashed an ability to be a really versatile big man once again. Jonathan Holton looked like a star at times. Even Nathan Adrian hit a three, something he has struggled with, and played some quality minutes.
It wasn’t just Juwan Staten, and boy does that bode well for this team. In fact, it couldn’t have been Staten in the final 3:49, because he fouled out after picking up two fouls in a matter of a few seconds.
When it mattered, WVU went to staples like Devin Williams and Gary Browne. Those two managed the end of the game like they’d been there before – and while they have, it finally seems like this one mattered a bit more.
Huggins’ team has one glaring issue that it must manage throughout the season. While it will win games defensively, it will lose them offensively. Again tonight, the Mountaineers had trouble finishing at the hoop. Throughout this young season, they have also failed to shoot that well, though in Puerto Rico they have been good enough to win.
And, really, that’s all West Virginia needs to do, especially this early in the season. It must play its defense like it has so far and do just enough offensively to give it a chance late. With the best point guard in the country, I say that lead to more wins than losses.
It’s been a while since West Virginia had a basketball team worth watching. This feels like a group that fans can get around. It’s going to take time to get to know these players, as most of them you didn’t hear of or know of a month ago, but this group is gritty and gutsy. It plays like the state it represents, and isn’t that nice for once?
Now, the defending national champions come calling, as the Mountaineers will play Connecticut on Sunday. That will be a much bigger test for this young team, but tonight’s result should give WVU a much-needed quality win and confidence builder - something it hasn't had in some time during the out-of-conference schedule.
Four games into the season, this team looks different. It looks better. And the projection of West Virginia's program is finally, seemingly, on an upswing for the first time in a while. And if the progression continues as expected, keep watching ... you'll have a hard time not keeping your eyes glued to the court. I have a feeling West Virginia is on its way back.