MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia's basketball players are well aware of the opportunities they've let get away so far this season, losing four games — all by single digits — to schools over which wins would have helped their postseason chances immensely.
The Mountaineers have another today against Purdue and they don't want to let that one slip away, too.
"We need this win,'' sophomore guard Terry Henderson said. "We need this win bad.''
True, a win over Purdue (9-3) in today's 1 p.m. game at the Coliseum (ESPNU) wouldn't be quite the magnitude of some of the others WVU (7-4) could have earned.
Wisconsin, for instance, is No. 2 in the latest unofficial Rating Percentage Index (RPI) and beat West Virginia by just seven points in Mexico. Gonzaga, which had to rally to beat WVU, is No. 13. Missouri, which beat the Mountaineers by nine, is No. 23. Combined those three teams went into the weekend 32-1. Even Virginia Tech, the other team that beat WVU, is a Top 75 RPI team and will go into the New Year leading the ACC thanks to an early win on the road at Miami.
Still, a win over a 9-3 Purdue team that is at least in the RPI Top 150 would be a great step forward for West Virginia, which has only one other game — a week from today against William & Mary in Charleston — before conference play begins. That's because to date, none of the seven teams WVU has beaten are ranked in the Top 200 and four are on the fringes of or outside the Top 300.
"You have to win games like this,'' said junior guard Gary Browne. "Look at where some of the teams we've played are [ranked]. Those would have been good wins. We need every win we can get in the non-conference games.''
And that non-conference schedule is now down to just these next two Sunday games. West Virginia will have plenty of opportunities to pick up quality wins in its 18-game Big 12 schedule that begins Jan. 4, but going into it without a win over a Top 150 team would certainly increase the pressure.