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The postseason hasn’t been kind to Jevon Carter and his West Virginia Mountaineer teammates over the past year.
Carter, a junior point guard who starred at Proviso East, has endured the sting of WVU losing the title game of the Big 12 tournament last March (81-71 to Kansas) and again this past Saturday—an 80-74 loss to Iowa State.
In between those contests was the 2016 NCAA tournament. The Mountaineers were the No. 3 seed in the East Region going into last year’s tourney, but exited the Big Dance prematurely after being upset by 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin in their first-round game.
Carter was all business when he and two other teammates met the media following the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Sunday night. He wants to make sure March Madness doesn’t turn into March sadness like it did last year. The Mountaineers are seeded fourth this time around in the West Region and face a 14th seed for the second straight year—this time, Patriot League champ Bucknell—on Thursday. Both clubs come in with 26-8 records.
On the plane ride home following last Saturday’s loss to Iowa State, Carter said the following thoughts raced through his mind:
“We just let a championship slip through our fingers for the second consecutive season,” said Carter, who led the Mountaineers with 18 points. “One that we knew we had just like we had it last year. It was tough, but we’ve got a chance going forward to not let what happened in the NCAA tournament happen again. Whatever we’ve got to do to not let history repeat itself again, we’ve got to do it.”
If WVU gets past Bucknell, it would play the winner of Notre Dame vs. Princeton this weekend.
Carter is amending the proverbial “one game at a time” mindset, saying WVU must take it one possession at a time, and concentrate on doing a better job of rebounding and making free throws.
“Rebounding and free throws; the same thing that hurt us last night (referring to the Iowa State game),” he said. “It’s just something we’ve got to do a better job at and take care of the ball. In most of our losses, we normally turn the ball over more than our opponent, and that’s just something we’ve got to stop doing.”
Veteran coach Bob Huggins is taking his 23rd team to the NCAA tournament this week. This is his 10th year at WVU, and Thursday marks the eighth time the Mountaineers have made it to the NCAAs under his tenure.The Mountaineers advanced to the Sweet 16 during Carter’s freshman year two years ago. Carter, of course, wants a return trip to the Sweet 16—and then some.
“It’s going to take everybody,” he said. “We’ve got to go out there and give it our all. This could be my very last game playing with (center) Nate (Adrian) and the other seniors, and I’m just not looking forward to that being a short route.
“If we come to play, we can cause problems for anybody. We’ve just got to go do what we do.”
Carter is the Mountaineers’ leading scorer at 13.1 points per game. He also leads WVU in assists, steals, minutes played and has corralled a team-best 133 defensive rebounds. He’s been gobbling up some personal accolades, as well, recently being named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and selected to the United States Basketball Writers Association’s all-District II team.
“It’s a good feeling (to get these awards), but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t win,” said Carter in an interview with the West Suburban Journal last week. “There were a couple of games we shouldn’t have lost, but that’s just how it goes. It’s playoff time and time for us to pull together. For me personally, things are going good. I’m just putting in a lot of work and it’s starting to pay off.”
Carter is looking forward to his third straight appearance in the NCAA tourney.
“It’s been great,” he said. “Hopefully we win more and we go further.”
Carter was highly recruited out of Proviso East his senior year (2014), but chose West Virginia for several reasons.
“To play for a coach like Bob Huggins,” he said. “My visit there, it just blew me away and the people there and how they treat you. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity, playing against the best schools in the country.”
He said he keeps tabs on former Proviso East teammates Sterling Brown, who also is participating in the NCAA tournament with SMU, and Paris Lee, a senior at Illinois State, which didn’t get an NCAA tourney bid but is the top seeded team in the NIT tournament.
“We keep in touch,” he said.