Trailing Missouri by 16-points with under eight minutes left in the Advocare Invitational championship game, head coach Bob Huggins had a message for his senior guards. It might have sounded familiar.
That's because it was the same message he’s delivered to Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles since the start of the year, however hoping this time it would stick.
Because if it didn’t, West Virginia appeared all but destined for its second loss of the season only seven games into it.
“It’s your team,” Huggins said.
It was received loud and clear.
Trailing 68-52, the Mountaineers outscored the Tigers 33-11 over the final seven minutes and change, rallying to do what they couldn’t even muster in their season opening loss to Texas A&M. Show both grit and toughness in battling back to not only make it a game, but come out with a win.
West Virginia used a relentless pressure defense to convert turnovers into 20-points, with nine of those miscues coming during that final stretch of the game. It all started on the defensive end.
But it wouldn’t have been possible without his senior guards scoring a combined 22 points during the pivotal stretch. Miles, a career 58-percent free throw shooter, connected on 14-15 attempts for the game and was a catalyst on both ends of the floor putting it all together for a complete game.
Meanwhile, the pair connected on 22 of their 23 attempts from the free throw line and the Mountaineers used a 23-6 run down the stretch to complete the comeback bid.
Carter would sink the go-ahead three-ball with 38-seconds left, giving the Mountaineers their first lead since taking a 24-23 lead with 7:15 remaining in the first half.
They wouldn’t let it go winning 83-79 as Carter finished with a career-high 29 points, while Miles scored 26 points for the Mountaineers. No other player finished in double figures.
“They willed us to win, they played great,” Huggins said.
This team will go as far as its experienced, veteran back court will take it. And the message appears to be getting through to both of them that it’s quite alright to take over ballgames on either end of the floor.
Both Carter and Miles have been in these situations before and with the relative inexperience surrounding them, especially during the suspension of Esa Ahmad, it’s imperative for them to stay aggressive.
This doesn’t erase what happened in Germany against Texas A&M, but battling back the way this team did with the players that helped provide the spark is exactly what Huggins needed to see. Effort was there and couple that with experience and it’s a dangerous combination.
“It’s a bunch of guys that were under recruited and kind of have something to prove,” Huggins said.
They did just that Sunday and now it’s time to wonder what’s next for this club?