WVU looks to keep moving forward after loss

Playing in a conference like the Big 12, even the slightest blip in the radar can lead to a much larger problem if a team struggles to keep its confidence following a close loss.

West Virginia knows this all too well after struggling in its first two seasons in the league, as the Mountaineers had multiple times where they played well but came up short in a close game against an opponent and allowed that to spiral into a series of losses over the course of the next few games.

Last season a run like that started after WVU lost a close one-point game to Oklahoma State at the Coliseum. West Virginia was on a three-game winning streak at that time, but after the loss came out flat in its next two games and lost by double digits to both Texas and Kansas State.

Now, after a similarly hard-fought 74-72 loss at the hands of No. 17 Iowa State Saturday, No. 14 West Virginia is trying to bounce back quickly and make sure that doesn't happen again this year with this team.

"We have to win Tuesday (against Oklahoma)," said head coach Bob Huggins. "We just can't squander opportunities.

"Game slippage happens when you're unprepared, that's when it happens."

And if the Mountaineers are going to want to bounce back, that preparation will be the key. They have back-to-back games on the horizon, as the No. 16 Sooners come to town Tuesday before WVU travels to Austin to square off against No. 10 Texas. If they're going to be successful, they'll need to continue on their path to do what they have done all season.

"We talk about playing hard and being engaged for 40 minutes, and I think we weren't engaged for the whole 40 minutes," said senior point guard Juwan Staten after Saturday's loss to Iowa State. "We definitely have to play hard and stay in tune with what we want to do for the whole 40 minutes because (Iowa State) is a team that can go on so many runs.

"We got a little bit relaxed at times and didn't execute like we were supposed to, and it hurt us."

Saturday's loss seemed to be a big blow to the Mountaineers, who have been exceeding expectations this season to get back into the top 25 and look like a team that had as good a chance as any of competing for the Big 12 crown. Bouncing back and getting on track again will start with coming together after a loss like this ready to rebound against Oklahoma.

"We've got to get back to work," said senior guard Gary Browne. "That's all that's on my mind right now. We can't do anything about this (loss). We've got to go back and work on stuff that we didn't do tonight."

But West Virginia knows that if it wants to be thought of as legitimate title contenders, it has to take care of business at the Coliseum.

“We let one get away,” Staten said. “We definitely want to win games at home. The teams that win the league take care of business at home, so now we’ll have to go and steal a couple on the road this year.”

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