MORGANTOWN - Never underestimate the power of redemption as motivation.
Oh, sure, a lot of times it's just hot air. Guys talk about a desire to set things straight, particularly after being embarrassed. They can even invent motivation where none seems to exist. Bulletin boards are great for that.
West Virginia's basketball team didn't need to invent any motivation Saturday before playing Kansas State. They had plenty, and it was concrete, not imaginary.
It was just two weeks earlier that the Mountaineers went to Manhattan, Kan., and left embarrassed. A 78-56 loss wasn't just their worst of the season, it was their worst by a ton. Yes, West Virginia has lost a bunch of games this season, but seven of their nine defeats had come by single digits and the worst was by 11.
Kansas State beat WVU by 22. And at times that afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum it seemed as if it could have been twice that.
"They kind of embarrassed us down at Kansas State,'' said point guard Juwan Staten, who while having a double-double in points and rebounds that day also was forced into a career-high seven turnovers during a 78-56 loss. "At the end they were laughing and joking and celebrating. That got to us.''
Well, there was no laughing or joking at the end of the teams' rematch Saturday at the Coliseum. There's not much room for that in a game during which only once - and very briefly - were the teams separated by more than single digits.
But if there was any joviality to be had, it was eventually on West Virginia's side. The Mountaineers rode Staten's 35 points and some clutch defense down the stretch to an 81-71 win over the Wildcats, executing a remarkable 32-point reversal in just 14 days.
And redemption seemed to be the primary driving force. Well, that and Staten's explosion.
"They were all laughing and smiling after the last game,'' Terry Henderson said of the Wildcats, who had every reason to having just won by 22 points to move to 14-4 and into the Top 25. "I took that to heart. I didn't want that to happen again. I think everyone took that personally.''
Whatever the motivation, the win was the second straight for West Virginia against a team that it hadn't managed to beat since joining the Big 12. For more than a year, the Mountaineers were saddled with the tag of not being able to beat anyone except the bottom teams in the Big 12, and it was a valid point. A year ago WVU was 6-0 in regular-season play against the three teams that finished with losing records - Texas, Texas Tech and TCU - and 0-12 against everyone else. This season, the Mountaineers' only early wins were again against Texas Tech (twice) and TCU, while going 0-4 against everyone else.