CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After briefly grabbing sole possession of second place in the Mountain East Conference, the University of Charleston has fallen on some tough times.
An eight-game winning streak powered UC toward the top of the standings and set up a 1-vs.-2 showdown last Saturday at West Liberty.
But after getting drubbed 103-71 by the mighty Hilltoppers, the bottom has fallen out for the Golden Eagles, and home losses to Wheeling Jesuit (88-80) and West Virginia Wesleyan (68-64) have left UC searching as the regular season draws closer and closer to its conclusion.
The loss to the Bobcats on Thursday was especially brutal after UC had cut a 14-point Wesleyan lead down to three with 5:15 remaining.
And though Wesleyan would score just five more points the rest of the way, Charleston couldn't make up the difference as several shots went begging down the stretch.
"I think you have to earn success. And we didn't earn it," UC coach Dwaine Osborne said after the game.
The good news for Charleston (13-7 overall, 10-6 Mountain East) is that it still sits in fourth place even after a three-game skid, and it has six remaining games to find itself again.
That stretch will start with a trip to Glenville State for a 4 p.m. tipoff today.
Playing the Pioneers (12-7, 9-6) may be a good omen in itself as Charleston defeated Glenville 77-70 on Jan. 6 to begin its long win streak.
But Osborne said his team looked sluggish even in practice leading up to the Wesleyan game, and that will have to change if UC is to get back on track.
"I can tell you this, it wasn't like the three weeks preceding it," Osborne said. "We have a toughness problem because it's easy to get up and get psyched up, and play hard, work hard and do extra when you've won eight games in a row. When things are tough and difficult in life, successful people get up and do their job regardless of how they feel and things are going.
"We talked about that with our team. Hey, things in life are difficult sometimes, and you've got to battle through that. And if you're going to lay down every time something goes bad, you're not going to enjoy your life."
While a UC rally came up short on Thursday, West Virginia State was on the opposite end as it turned back a furious Glenville State comeback bid with a basket with six seconds left to break its own losing streak of five games.
The Pioneers were down by as many as 19 points in the second half but took a 75-74 lead with 1:12 remaining.