MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s storyline has grown tiresome to those who remain.
To the point that when questions are posed regarding the adversity a short-handed roster creates, the players simply nod their heads as a way to fast forward the moment.
“When you put any energy at all into off-the-court things, your on-the-court [focus] is not going to be where it needs to be,” West Virginia point guard Jordan McCabe said. “That’s with any team dynamic. If you’re not 100 percent focused on how can we get ourselves to click the right way on the floor, especially at this level and in this conference, it’s just a recipe for disaster.
“We saw that earlier this year, but I think there is a lot of good that we can take from that as we move forward.”
Down four starters because of dismissals, injuries and transfers, the Mountaineers (12-18, 4-13 Big 12) haven’t sensed any continuity.
“You have no idea how hard a year it’s been,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “Guys are playing and then guys come back. Then, they’re not playing and you don’t really know who to count on. You don’t know who your teammates are.”
The Mountaineers will try to win their first road game of the season at 4 p.m. Saturday when they travel to Oklahoma State (11-19, 4-13) in the final game of the regular season. Maybe now, at the end, WVU players have the necessary understanding of who and what they are.
“At the start of the season, we were all like, ‘We’re about to get going,’ and then we plateau,” forward Derek Culver said. “Then we get going and flatline. I don’t want to say I’m the first person who has jumped on board, but things look promising. Now.”
It’s not exactly high stakes for West Virginia, but there is an opportunity to escape last place and finish as the No. 9 seed in next week’s Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. They also could have their first two-game winning streak in league play.
The Cowboys are undermanned too, yet went on the road Wednesday and knocked off Baylor 67-64, behind 23 points from freshman guard Isaac Likekele.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton dismissed three players Jan. 1 and graduate transfer Mike Cunningham left the team at the end of the first semester, leaving the Cowboys with seven scholarship players.
“I’m really proud of our kids for fighting the way they did against a really good team on the road,” Boynton said. “It shows a bit of our character. We have had a tough season for our guys.”
The Mountaineers’ would like nothing more than to take their tough season and finish it with some positives to build toward next season.
“I’ve never really been through anything like this before,” West Virginia guard Jermaine Haley said. “I don’t think too many of us have experienced anything like this, but I like that we continued to stay together and kept working to turn it around. We’ve stayed focused as a group.”