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Mountaineers hoping to continue momentum

MORGANTOWN - West Virginia's basketball team has been here before in the last month.

Mired in a losing streak and trying to figure out just how to make it end, the Mountaineers put together a performance that had a lot of the elements for which they were looking. It happened to end a three-game losing streak with an overtime win at Providence and then to snap a two-game skid with Thursday's late-night win at Pitt.

As the Providence game proved, though, one win does not a slump-stopper make. That victory merely meant that instead of losing six in a row, West Virginia had lost five of six, with the lone win coming in overtime against the Big East's last-place team.

So how do the Mountaineers avoid that same fate now that another streak has ended?

"Well, that's up to me and Truck and Deniz,'' Kevin Jones said, referring to the veteran core that also includes Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli. "We have to take it on ourselves to play hard and play together like we did [at Pitt]. That's the reason we won and that's going to be the reason we win every time. It has to be.''

Truth be told, if West Virginia slips again and loses its next game after beating Pitt, it won't be a signal that the Mountaineers are again regressing. It would simply be a loss that almost everyone suffers.

That's because the next game for the Mountaineers (17-10, 7-7 Big East) is Wednesday night in South Bend against No. 23 Notre Dame (19-8, 11-3). The Irish are almost invincible at home, having lost just once in their last 34 games at the Joyce Center's Purcell Pavilion. West Virginia has lost 10 straight there.

Still, the Mountaineers need to play well and have a chance to win or the Pitt game will be quickly forgotten.

[The Pitt game] was a must-win game for us, but so are all of our games now,'' Jones said. "We're running out of time.''

Indeed, West Virginia doesn't have much time left to figure things out and begin winning more games than just one.

The Mountaineers have only four games remaining in the regular season and then the Big East tournament to solidify a spot in the NCAA tournament for a fifth straight season.

As of Sunday, WVU was No. 32 in the RPI with games remaining against Notre Dame, No. 12 Marquette at home on Friday, then DePaul at home and South Florida on the road. Of those four, WVU might be favored in only one, against DePaul.

South Florida is 13-1 at home this season despite not playing a single game at the Sun Dome, which is being renovated.

"We're trying to get into the NCAA tournament,'' coach Bob Huggins said. "And in order to do that we need to win some games.''

BRIEFLY: Notre Dame has now won eight straight after rallying to beat Villanova Saturday. The Irish have not lost since falling to Connecticut at home and Rutgers on the road more than a month ago.

  • Jones continues to lead the Big East in scoring and rebounding, as he has done virtually the entire season. He is averaging 20.4 points and 11.3 rebounds and is the only league player above 20 points and one of two over 10 rebounds (Seton Hall's Herb Pope is the other at 10.6). He is also first in the league in both defensive and offensive rebounds.
  • Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734, dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1


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