RaeQuan Battle is back on the upswing, WVU ends losing skid with 77-67

MORGANTOWN — In his own words, RaeQuan Battle said it’s been a roller coaster of a season for him, filled with more peaks and valleys that can be found in the West Virginia mountains.

“I feel like I put a lot of unnecessary weight on my shoulders, especially after the Kansas game, because it was so fun,” Battle said. “We were all on our high horse then. Once I went to UCF, they just punched me in my face, literally. It was a lesson learned. I had to turn it around.”

The WVU senior guard did just that Tuesday, as the Mountaineers ended a four-game losing streak with a 77-67 victory against UCF inside the Coliseum.


“It was critical at this juncture,” WVU head coach Josh Eilert said of ending the losing skid. “It’s critical to get that confidence and have a few days to prep before we head out. We need to see one go down on the road, that would be even more critical for our confidence.”

Battle’s game was a night-and-day difference from WVU’s trip to Orlando earlier in the season that turned into a 13-point loss against the Knights.

He was frustrated and then ejected that night, having had two technical fouls called on him.

The second time around, Battle scored 24 points, hit a couple of 3-pointers, added five rebounds and survived a hard slap to the face, as UCF tried to bully the Mountaineers (9-17, 4-9 Big 12) once again.

This time it didn’t work, as Battle took care of his business and Jesse Edwards (15 points, 10 rebounds) took care of his.

“I thought their guys were very active,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “I think the addition of Edwards definitely helps their team and gives them a true low-post presence offensively and defensively.

“I thought the young man Battle played really well for them on the perimeter. He did a really good job of giving them a balance, so they had a nice inside-outside presence.”

Here’s what Battle is doing: His last three games have seen him average 23.3 points, which is only outdone by the first three games Battle played in a WVU uniform this season, in which he averaged 27.3 points.

The difference is now Battle has Edwards available as a running mate.

“There’s definitely less focus on each of us, because we now have all the pieces we wanted,” Edwards said. “Nobody can really just hone down on one of us. It makes it easier to run your offense and it makes it a lot more fun.”

The game featured two interesting moments for the officials, in which two goaltending calls were eventually overturned retroactively after replay reviews.

One went against WVU and one went against UCF (13-12, 4-9), but both came after the game had already continued. The overturn of WVU’s goaltend didn’t come until halftime, taking two points away from UCF while both teams were in the locker room.

“They’re just waiting for a dead ball so they can review it,” Eilert said. “I would assume they can, because they did. I would like them to review a lot of things.”

If you can go back in time and change a goaltending call, how about going back to 2008 and changing Patrick Ewing Jr.’s block at the buzzer on Da’Sean Butler’s lay-up?

“I remember that vividly,” Eilert said.

Getting back on track, if Battle is again on the upswing on that roller coaster, what does that mean for the Mountaineers?

For Battle, he said it means he’s found a source of inner peace almost, that he doesn’t have to go out and force up a bunch of crazy shots just to put points on the scoreboard.

“I just had to relax and play the game I’ve always played,” he said. “I had to stop over thinking. At times (it’s easy to do that). When you’re on a four-game losing streak, I had to look at those games and show-out night in and night out.”

For the first time since the Jan. 13 victory against Texas, the Mountaineers held a double-digit lead in a game.

Quinn Slazinski added 14 points, four assists and four rebounds, while Kobe Johnson and Josiah Harris each scored eight.

Darius Johnson led UCF with 29 points, but the Knights were held to just 9 of 38 (23.7%) from 3-point range.