MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Even in a season during which West Virginia is one game below .500, there have been moments, whether in victory or in narrow defeat, when players could think things were about to head in a more recognizable direction.
"Let's be honest," Coach Bob Huggins said after Saturday's 77-61 victory at Texas Tech, "there were some games that we should have won. For reasons that were beyond my control and theirs, we didn't. But we had opportunities."
After a 37-point win to open November's Old Spice Classic, the Mountaineers lost by three points to Davidson in the second game of the Old Spice Classic, where they were 8-for-17 at the free-throw line and missed a game-tying 3-point attempt at the end. After a layup with 5 seconds to go beat then-unbeaten Virginia Tech, WVU lost by four to Duquesne, despite holding a 16-point first half lead.
WVU entered the New Year and Big 12 play with a three-game winning streak, but wasted a 12-point lead and lost at home to Oklahoma.
The Mountaineers rallied from 12 points late to win at Texas and felt like they had things figured out, but lost three in a row. The first two were by a combined three points and WVU bobbled its final possession and lost to Kansas State and let Iowa State score on the game's final shot.
The latest uptick came in defeat, when the Mountaineers felt they were worthy to beat No. 2 Kansas pm Monday.
But it's been the moment after the moment, the game after the game, that has been WVU's trouble all season, up until Saturday's win.
The Mountaineers (10-11, 3-5 Big 12) shot the ball better than they have all season and in today's 9 p.m. ESPN game against Texas (10-11, 2-6), have a chance to win back-to-back games for the first time since sweeping a late-December homestand against Oakland, Radford and Eastern Michigan.
"Every time you ask me if I feel like this is the start of a run, I say, 'Yeah, I think it is,' " freshman Eron Harris said. "What we know now is we've got to take it game by game because any win can start a run. (Tonight) we've got to bring it out like we're playing Kansas. Every game we've got to bring it out like we're playing Kansas."
It's not that WVU feels other opponents aren't as good or as capable of beating WVU, but that Big Monday stage last week was where WVU had its most competitive display in weeks. That spirit was there, though for more sporadic stretches, against Texas Tech.
The Mountaineers led 16-4 early and pushed back a pair of Texas Tech runs in the second half to finally make good on some momentum.