In many ways, Tarik Phillip personifies this West Virginia team. He plays with the hardest of edges, and is typically in his opponents' faces from start to finish. Playing hard, and with passion, defines him. So, it wasn't a surprise to see him come up with a big rebound with 1:10 left to play and the score tied.
On the scramble, Phillip battled with multiple Wildcats before diving on the ball along the baseline and calling a timeout. That gave the Mountaineers the ball for the final time of the night, and set up a two-offensive rebound possession that ended with Esa Ahmad's free throw, which gave WVU the win. For a scrappy player with that never back down attitude, it was fitting.
"I liked the rebound better," Phillip said, when asked to compare that play with the 3-pointer that he hit just 35 seconds earlier. "I dove on it, so I liked the rebound."
Hmmm. A player that has been an offensive spark plug off the bench, the Big 12's reigning sixth man of the year, liking a rebound better? If nothing else, it shows how he has come to appreciate other aspects of the game besides scoring.
That, clearly was in short supply against K-State. Before he hit that three, WVU's guards were a combined 5-28 from the field. The clanks from inside the Sprint Center could have drowned out a metal foundry. But for Phillip, the ability to put that aside was still the key.
"That shows how deep we are, and shows our resilience. We have a lot of guys who can play. We missed a lot of shots. We shot 17 threes in the first half. That's not really us. We got back to attacking the rim. Our MO is not shooting threes."
True, but it was still a three that proved to be one of the biggest shots of the game. Trailing by three, Phillip rotated to the left corner, took a pass from Jevon Carter, and buried a shot that tied the score. That was the first time that WVU had not trailed since the 9:31 mark of the first half. It was followed by some typical pointed comments from Phillip ("That's what I do!") as he dropped back on defense, but those might have applied just as well to the team as a whole, and its refusal to give in. Make no mistake, there were plenty of chances to fold the tent when things were going the wrong way, but that's not a characteristic of this squad.
"We just came out and we played way harder in the second half," Phillip summed up.