Despite shooting 2-16 for about a 7-minute stretch encompassing the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half, the Texas Longhorns were only down by eight to the 6th-ranked West Virginia squad in Morgantown, 45-37. Texas had managed to overcome unforced errors and a complete inability to hit decent looks from three to keep within striking distance of one of the favorites to win the Big 12.
Then West Virginia hit another gear, and it was over. The Mountaineers hit 8-11 threes and left Texas in the dust. It didn’t matter if the three was on the line of four feet back, whether Texas was up tight on them or four feet away, the WVU guards were all throwing rocks into the ocean. West Virginia is not a good shooting team, their first half numbers — 4/12 from three, 31% from the floor — are about what West Virginia does in a normal half. They get their points through extra shots via rebounds and turnovers, which they did in the first half (39 FGA to Texas’ 21). The last 11 minutes of the game were what happens when WVU gets their rebounds and turnovers and gets hot. They went full Death Blossom, and even if Texas had hit 40% from deep they still wouldn’t have kept up. Nine minutes of West Virginia at its offensive apex is nigh unbeatable. Tip your cap to them, that was impressive.
It’s One Loss
Texas wasn’t supposed to win this game in the first place; Pomeroy had Texas with a 26% win probability, and going into the game I felt that was probably a bit high. WVU has two senior guards in Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles who are both really good defenders, with Carter being the likely DPoY in the NCAA. They’re both in year four of heading up an aggressive press and they probably were licking their chops at the idea of trapping freshman Matt Coleman. Last year they bedeviled Kerwin Roach II as well, and when you consider Texas is starting three freshmen it seemed unlikely Texas was going to limit their turnovers today. With the two teams as they’re presently constituted, I’d imagine Texas wins in Morgantown maybe two times out of ten. Still, it’s only one loss, and in the long run it doesn’t really severely impact Texas’ chances. Even getting throttled late only dropped their chances on TeamRankings about 3%. I was asked if this was Texas’ worst showing of the season, which I’d still say is the Tennessee State win. Thirty minutes of this game were competitive, the last ten minutes Texas got routed by a team who is one week removed from getting first place votes in both the AP & Coaches poll.
Bamba was the bright spot on an individual level today; he held his own against a stronger (and equally ready to block your shot) Sagaba Konate. He rejected another five shots and pulled down almost half (13) of Texas’ 29 rebounds. Bamba also played a pivotal role in breaking the press a number of times; it’s nice having a guy in the middle of the court who you can just throw the ball to without worrying about someone else picking it off.
The Mixed Bag
This section is one of those ‘process vs. outcome’ topics. The Texas gameplan was a decent one and Texas got good looks, they just flat missed shots. Roach, Coleman, Jacob Young, and even Jericho Sims went hard at the rim repeatedly, but they missed a ton of close shots. Look at how many of their missed shots were within 6 feet.
Some of that was Konate, some of that was Texas flat whiffing.
Texas Discovers What it Feels Like to Face Mo
Konate is a hell of a shot-blocker; where Bamba uses quickness and length to swat shots, Konate uses pure aggression and strength to reject shots. They’re both extremely effective, and they both limit what opponents can do in the paint. One of Texas’ clear advantages was neutralized today by facing a shot-blocker as good as their own. WVU is about the only team Texas will see this year who can claim that distinction.
Eric Davis Jr.
Two points, one rebound, two turnovers, and five fouls in 16 minutes. That was a rough outing for Davis.
14-22 from the line is a good way to eliminate what little chance Texas had at an upset today. When the game was still in doubt for the first thirty minutes, Texas had a number of chances to close the gap from the line and didn’t take advantage of enough of them. The missed front end of one-and-ones were especially painful. On the bright side, Sims went 3-5 from the line, which is well above his average. He needs to get more lift under his shot, but it’s starting to come around a bit.
Texas split two games against ranked opponents this week, which helps their chances of ending up in the NCAA tournament and keeps their hopes of ending up in the top half of the Big 12 alive. Their next game is Monday night against an Iowa State team they beat on the road, but it’s the same Iowa State squad who just beat Texas Tech at home. There are no off nights in this league. Tip is 6 PM CT on ESPNU.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by a snoring dog.