Men's Basketball, WVU Sports

COLUMN: WVU’s victory against No. 3 Kansas can’t be explained by numbers, only heart

MORGANTOWN — There are numbers and theories meant to explain everything from what’s going on in the furthest depths of space down to something as simple as the types of air we breathe.

Nothing — no stat, no theory, no analytical breakdown — can explain what happened inside the WVU Coliseum on Saturday.

WVU, a team that had fallen to both Radford and Monmouth inside the Coliseum, just beat No. 3 Kansas 91-85 in the same arena.

The same team that could not buy a 3-pointer against the powerhouse known as Bellarmine suddenly couldn’t miss against the Jayhawks.

And, yeah, the team that got killed on the glass by UMass all of a sudden looked like Dennis Rodman on the boards against Kansas.

This is the true beauty of athletics. While we are in an era where schools and professional teams alike are spending thousands of dollars on analytics, there will always be an element to athletics that numbers can’t explain.

It’s the human element and the emotional element you will never see factored into those reports.

The idea that on any given day, someone — or an entire team for that matter — can rise up above the expected and show more hustle, heart and guts than the guy lined up across them.

“That one felt good,” WVU head coach Josh Eilert said. “That is what our guys needed for the confidence to start snowballing in the right direction.”

We could say the Mountaineers (7-11, 2-3 Big 12) played a perfect game, but that would make you believe the Jayhawks played a poor one.

They didn’t. Kansas shot 53.3% (32 of 60) for the game.

For about 39 minutes, Kansas had more answers than Jeopardy, in that every time WVU threatened to take the momentum, the Jayhawks answered right back and put points on the board.

Kansas only turned the ball over seven times. It finished with 22 assists.

No, the Jayhawks did not simply hand this game over to the Mountaineers. Instead, WVU went out and took it.

“It was all energy and effort,” was the way WVU guard RaeQuan Battle tried to explain it after finishing with an impressive 23 points that saw him make an array of one tough shot after another. “The main thing with us is we know we can do it. We can beat any team in the country. We just have to be consistent and bring it every night.”

The “it” Battle spoke of is passion and consistency and heart.

So many times this season, the Mountaineers have lacked all of it.

Don’t get me wrong, they had plenty of legitimate reasons not to be on their A game. This team has gone through more adversity than the entire collection of Sylvester Stallone’s movie characters.

OK, maybe not Rambo, because John Rambo dealt with some pretty heavy stuff, but you get the picture.

So how in the world did WVU players simply decide this was going to be the day they took a stand?

How did this suddenly become the day that WVU decided they were better than what all those numbers and analytical reports said they were?

That’s the funny thing about what transpired Saturday, because there probably isn’t a good answer for that question.

Eilert credited some of the victory to more effort, that WVU seemed to be quicker to the ball than in other games.

Maybe the fact the other jerseys read “Kansas” on them brought out that higher level of passion.

The real question to be asked is whether this was a one-time deal? Will WVU suddenly slip back into reality or does this level of play become the Mountaineers’ new reality?

That question may have an answer.

“It’s one thing to get a top 25 win against Texas. It’s another thing to beat a Hall Of Fame coach (Bill Self) and a top 5 program at home,” Eilert said. “Hopefully, that goes a long way for our confidence in terms of moving forward and continuing the grind through the Big 12, because it really is a grind.”