WVU basketball: Texas too tough for Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - All the good work West Virginia put in on the road to start conference play and all the kind things people were saying about the Mountaineers when they were in first place in the Big 12 just seven days ago were rendered moot and mute Monday night.
WVU lost for the second time at home in three days and played as badly as it has in more than a month in an 80-69 loss to Texas.
"Everyone who watched that game knows what happened," point guard Juwan Staten said. "We didn't rebound and we didn't guard, and that's what happens.
Texas (13-4, 2-2 Big 12) outrebounded WVU 49-30 and shot a season-high 52.7 percent in the game with 34 points in the paint and another 18 at the free-throw line. The Longhorns were No. 8 in the conference in shooting percentage (44.3).
"They killed us on the glass and drove the ball pretty much anywhere they wanted to and got the shot where they wanted pretty much every time down the court," Staten said.
The margin of defeat was the largest for the Mountaineers this season. They trailed by double digits for the final 22:11 after not trailing by more than eight points in any game since a Dec. 5 loss to Missouri. WVU (10-7, 2-2) fell behind by 25 points in that game and came close to that against Texas when the lead was 70-49 with 6:22 to go as much of the Coliseum crowd of 8,706 started to leave.
The Mountaineers missed 21 of 25 3-point shots, including 15 in row, against the conference's worst 3-point defense. They had only six turnovers, but didn't quite make the most of their possessions by shooting 37.7 percent (26-for-69).
"We just didn't make any shots," coach Bob Huggins said. "You don't make shots, you put your head down. You make shots, you play harder. They made shots. We didn't make any shots."
Staten led all scorers with 23 points and had five assists. Terry Henderson, whose 3 to start the game was followed by 15 misses by he and his teammates over the next 11:31, had 16 points on 7-for-17 shooting. He missed his final five 3-point shots.
Eron Harris was 3-for-11 and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts to finish with a season-low six points. Remi Dibo was 2-for-7 from 3-point range and had 10 points. Freshman Devin Williams had two points and no rebounds in 16 minutes as he played through the flu.
The Lonhgorns were led by Jevan Felix's 19 points. Cameron Ridley had 12 points and 12 rebounds and Jonathan Holmes had nine points and 12 rebounds. Guard Isaiah Taylor added 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists and Martez Walker scored 10 points off the bench.
The first five games in the all-time series were decided in the final seconds, including WVU's win at Texas last season. The Mountaineers trailed by 13 points past the middle of second half in that game and were down 10 with 3:35 to go before they rallied, forced overtime and stole a win on the road. Staten's layup with 2:55 to go Monday made it 75-62 and WVU could have been a point closer, but Staten, who had been 4-for-4 at the foul line, missed a free throw to finish the three-point play.
Texas scored on the other end before Dibo's 3 got the Mountaineers within 12 points for the first time since late in the first half. The Longhorns missed the front end of a one-and-one, but WVU turned the ball over and then fouled Texas. A free throw preceded a layup by Staten to make it 78-67, but the Mountaineers could get no closer.
Texas, meanwhile, shot 50 percent in the first half and 56.5 percent in the second half to beat WVU for the first time in three Big 12 meetings.
"It's the worst feeling in the world and makes you want to sit down and never touch a basketball again with losses like that where those guys make every shot," Harris said.
The score was tied three times and the lead changed seven times in the early part of the game before the Longrorns took control with a well-timed run to end the first half. The Mountaineers found themselves in a heap of trouble against the size Texas flaunted in its defense and rebounding. The Longhorns forced the Mountaineers to spend a lot of time passing the ball against a zone to find open shots. WVU was instead left to operate against an expiring shot or hope something good would happen when one player was isolated against a defender.
The Mountaineers ended up shooting just 33.3 percent (11-for-33) in the first half, their second-worst shooting percentage in a half this season. WVU shot 30.5 percent in the first half against Missouri and trailed by 14 points then.
That had been the biggest deficit of the season until the Mountaineers matched it against Texas. WVU was down 29-25 after Staten made a jumper at the end of the shot clock with 4:41 left in the half. The Mountaineers would miss their final six shots of the half and the Longhorns scored on their final six possessions to finish on a 12-2 run. They made 4 of 7 shots, but scored after all their misses, and wound up with five players scoring at least six points to lead 41-27.
"I really felt like that last eight minutes of the first half were the best eight minutes we've played all year," coach Rick Barnes said.
WVU, which lost in the final seconds two days earlier to No. 11 Oklahoma State, plays at Kansas State at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Wildcats (12-4, 2-1) lead the Big 12 in scoring defense.
"If somebody believes this the end of the world right now," Harris said, "they're wrong."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu.