MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia got a victory Wednesday night that it needed in the worst way.
"Our heads were starting to hang,'' Juwan Staten admitted. "We were starting to get down on ourselves.''
Well, Wednesday night's 87-81 win over Texas Tech won't cure all that ails the Mountaineers. But at least it's a start and it is certainly preferable to the alternative.
Terry Henderson had a career-high 28 points in the win and the Mountaineers finished an up-and-down game on an up note. In a game in which WVU started both halves on fire but was less than sterling at other times, the Mountaineers finally built a late 13-point lead and then hung on in front of a weather-influenced crowd of just 5,031 at the Coliseum.
"That,'' said sophomore guard Eron Harris, "was a confidence-builder game.''
Indeed, the win snapped West Virginia's three-game losing streak and brought the Mountaineers (11-8, 3-3 Big 12) back to even in league play. It was also WVU's first Big 12 home win of the season after losing their first two and the first in league play since beating these same Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas on Jan. 6.
The schedule for the Mountaineers, though, now gets considerably more difficult. A two-game road trip to Oklahoma State (Saturday) and Baylor (Tuesday) is the beginning of a stretch of six straight games against Top 25 opponents.
Texas Tech (10-9, 2-4) saw its two-game win streak snapped and still hasn't beaten West Virginia in four regular-season league games. The Red Raiders did, however, top WVU in the first round of the Big 12 tournament last season.
That West Virginia won this one was in large part thanks to Henderson, who had five 3-pointers and made 10 of his 13 shots in surpassing the 23-point performance he had against Michigan last season.
It wasn't Henderson's first big game of the season or even of the month. He had 21 points 11 days earlier in a near miss against Oklahoma State, and it was his 3-pointer that helped send that Jan. 6 game in Lubbock to overtime.
But it also came on the heels of a two-point disaster of a performance Saturday at Kansas State, and Henderson had missed seven of his eight 3s since the Oklahoma State game. He attributed the turnaround Wednesday night to studying.
"I've been doing some research during my down time, studying Ray Allen and guys like that,'' Henderson said. "Those guys are always looking at the next shot and not the last one. That's something I've needed to work on.''
Henderson and Harris helped West Virginia charge out to an 11-point lead early in the game when WVU made its first six 3-point attempts, then Henderson got hot again to start the second half, scoring 10 points in less than four minutes.
But Tech stayed in the game pretty much on the strength of one player. Dusty Hannahs, a reserve guard, had 25 points and made all seven of his 3-point attempts. He led a 16-0 first-half run that erased that early WVU lead, then tried to do the same late in the game.
Hannahs made his last 3 with 42 seconds to play, a sprinting, leaping transition shot that closed the gap to 84-78. Tech later got two points closer at 85-81, but by then it was too late.
"He made shots that normally you'd say, 'Let him shoot those,''' Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins said of Hannahs. "He had a heck of a game.''
In addition to Henderson, West Virginia got 16 points and seven assists from Staten, 15 points from Harris and 10 from Nathan Adrian. All contributed mightily, but Henderson's shooting was the key.
"I'd be lying if I told you I thought he'd go 10 for 13 and get 28,'' Huggins said. "But I did think he'd play better.''
Tech coach Tubby Smith certainly was sold.
"There are certain guys, like Henderson, that we tell them to make them put it on the floor,'' Smith said. "Obviously our guys don't understand the scouting report.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
WEST VIRGINIA 87, TEXAS TECH 81
Texas Tech (10-9, 2-4)
Min FG FT R A P
Kravic 17 1-2 0-0 1 1 3