The Mountaineers men’s basketball team is currently ranked 19th in both the Coaches and AP polls coming off the heels of the team’s late rally over Missouri to take home the Advocare Invitation Championship Sunday night in Orlando, Florida. Over the course of games this past weekend, this team showed they have a strong drive to bring success to the program.
Down 16 late in the second half, these players were able to rally around one another and bring success to themselves. It is clearly very early in the season, but the men’s team is already showing they are driven and have a desire for success. Two key traits that will carry this team throughout a rigorous Big 12 conference schedule and hopefully to their post-season goals.
The Mountaineers made it to the post-season last spring, as everyone clearly remembers. The 2016-2017 season did not end the way the team had planned or wanted, and judging by the late game rally Sunday night, this current team may be using that Sweet Sixteen loss to Gonzaga as motivation when the game isn’t going in the right direction.
Without repeating too much of what happened last March, the Mountaineers faced a defeat that ended a season they thought would end at the grand finale of the Final Four. That didn’t happen. Instead, the Mountaineers lost some seniors, some heart-full and determined players, and looked toward the next season. Which is here now.
When this year’s team was down 16 in the second half Sunday, Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, Jr. really showed up. They’ve been around the block and likely reminded themselves to push harder and to not accept defeat. It’s likely these two, as well as the rest of the team, used a little memory of a big loss like the Gonzaga loss and turned that into determination, drive and focus.
Once they were locked in, the Mountaineers made sure they were going to win the game versus Missouri late Sunday night. The drive and determination fans hear Coach Huggins talk about, that toughness and Mountaineer mentality was shining bright in Orlando as the Mountaineers turned a 16 point deficit into a four point victory.
At this point in time, nearly all fans have heard of the story Coach Huggins tells about the rear view mirror. As classic of a Huggins story that is, maybe his team looked for a rear view mirror to last season, or the loss to Texas A&M a few weeks ago, and became determined to win the game Sunday night.
If this team can maintain the same drive and tenacity they showed in the final minutes of the victory over Missouri, this will surely be a special team to watch throughout the season. This team pulled it together in the final minutes and found the determination, whatever that may have been, to win and take home the tournament trophy. With the focus and drive shown Sunday, there’s going to be a lot of nail-biting, close but good games in the coming months.