MORGANTOWN — If only for a moment, or two, it nearly felt like December again for the WVU men’s basketball program.
That was the thought James “Beetle” Bolden said briefly ran through his mind as he took in the second half of WVU’s 89-51 victory on Feb. 3, against Kansas State.
You remember December, when the 15th-ranked Mountaineers (17-6, 6-4 Big 12) put together a 15-game winning streak and began to steadily climb up the national polls.
“We definitely want that feeling back,” Bolden said.
It was a different time, not only because of the personnel available, but because everything seemed to be clicking.
Players weren’t going to the hospital to keep hydrated — both Bolden and teammate Daxter Miles Jr. made trips to the hospital for IV treatments before playing Kansas State — and Teddy Allen was simply a talented freshman and not a talented freshman who was in head coach Bob Huggins’ doghouse with an attitude problem.
Lamont West stretched defenses with his 3-point shooting and everyone competed on defense and seemingly made shots on offense.
“We have not shot the ball well,” Huggins said about WVU’s recent run that has seen the Mountaineers drop five of their last seven games. “That’s not any secret.”
Then came the second half Saturday. Allen made tough shots inside. West knocked down both of his 3-point attempts, while Sagaba Konate continued to shine in the paint, which all allowed Jevon Carter to simply manage the game with 11 assists instead of being forced to take over it.
“We’ve been down the last few games and so we wanted to get our confidence back with the whole group,” Bolden said. “Tonight will definitely help moving forward.”
Moving forward for WVU means venturing into treacherous territory, beginning with today’s game against No. 12 Oklahoma (16-6, 6-4).
WVU is 1-4 at the Lloyd Noble Center, with the win coming last season.
The Sooners are a much different team now with the addition of freshman point guard Trey Young, who has taken the Big 12 and the country by storm this season.
Young leads the nation in both scoring (29.8 ppg) and assists (9.7 apg).
In WVU’s 89-76 victory, on Jan. 6, the Mountaineers frustrated Young and forced him into committing eight turnovers, but he also scored 29 points.
“They have a very good player, so we have to try and contain him as much as we can,” Bolden said. “We’re going to try and do the same thing. We’ll have to execute it well.”
The question, Huggins said, was how much energy will the Mountaineers have after beating Kansas State.
Truth is, Miles, Bolden and West were still feeling ill after the game.
Another day of rest on Sunday helped, but that also meant WVU didn’t do much in practice.
“If we come out Monday with no energy, then you’ll know this game really affected us,” Huggins said.
“We’ll watch tape. We’ll try to learn from watching our first Oklahoma game and from watching teams who gave them problems.”
That probably included the Sooners’ 79-74 loss against Texas on Saturday, in which senior forward Khadeem Lattin was in foul trouble throughout and Young was held to just 19 points on 7 of 22 shooting.
“I don’t think I got a rhythm,” Young told the Associated Press following the game. “All my shots were short or long. They were all on line.”
If WVU continues its resurgence, the Mountaineers could keep pace in what has become a wide-open race in the Big 12, with Kansas and Texas Tech tied for the lead and Oklahoma and WVU both just one game behind.
WVU also has one game remaining against both Kansas (on Feb. 17, at Allen Fieldhouse) and Texas Tech (Feb. 26, at home) that could have implications toward the Big 12 title.
“We just have to keep our energy up,” Miles said. “So many big games coming up. We have to be ready for all of them.”