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Shooting From the Corner: Texas 75, West Virginia 53

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NCAA Basketball: Texas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

For the second game in a row, the Texas Longhorns put a game out of reach for the majority of the second half. While the win against Baylor was heartening, seeing Texas put down a team on the road was another sign that Shaka Smart’s squad may be working towards peaking at the right time. Hang on, that statement didn’t have enough caveats in it, let’s try again. With this road win, Texas may be working towards approaching a final form that could be pointing at a potentially positive final run of the season. There we go, much better; can’t half-ass our waffling statements around here.

While West Virginia is reeling, we’re a month removed from Texas taking a bottom-rung Big 12 opponent too lightly and getting beat, so a win like this is heartening. Texas could have played down to their competition. They didn’t, and now they have a sweep over the Mountaineers for the first time since 2016. Sweep enough teams and you end the season with a winning conference record. Texas still has three teams they can sweep: Baylor, Oklahoma, and Kansas State. Before we get into that, let’s walk through the biggest Big 12 margin of victory in Shaka’s tenure.

The Good

Courtney Ramey

Thank you, Rick Pitino.

Courtney Ramey went 5-6 from three, scored 19 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished out four assists, and rubbed his scrotum all over Bob Huggins’ stool in a TV timeout. Ramey is shooting 42.5% from three in conference play and shows no signs of slowing down. I know there’s still 9-10 games left in this season, but I can’t help but be giddy at the thought of Ramey, Matt Coleman, and Andrew Jones on the floor together next year.

If Ramey can learn to finish in traffic - he’s decent, but could get much better - he’s going to terrorize the Big 12 next year.

Matt Coleman

Coleman didn’t score a ton, but he had the right kind of aggression and was pushing tempo like we haven’t seen in a couple of months. This is the second game in a row where Coleman is showing an edge that Shaka Smart has been trying to coax out of him since he got on campus. If he and Ramey both play with the right-sized chip on their shoulders, this team just got much more dangerous.

Rebounding

Texas grabbed 41% of their offensive rebounding opportunities - and 70% of their defensive rebounding opportunities - which is way above their normal level. (For perspective, on the season they grab a shade under 30% of their offensive chances.) More impressive is that they did it against a program known for prioritizing rebounds. The last four games have shown a number of improvements but maybe the most noticeable to me is the renewed focus on rebounding. It’s not just at one position either, guards and wings are getting into the effort as well.

Pick & Roll Offense

Texas lived in the lane today. While some of it can be laid at the feet of a West Virginia defense who seemed uninterested in help defense, the Texas guards repeatedly attacked the rim when the opportunity presented itself. Kerwin Roach II might as well have leased office space in the paint tonight. Poor defense notwithstanding, the Texas guards reliably made the correct read. Moreover, at one point in the game when both teams were tired due to it being well past the normal TV timeout, guys like Roach and Coleman went at the gassed Mountaineers and got layup after layup until Bob Huggins was forced to burn a timeout.

Gerald Liddell and Blake Nevins Scored

Go eat young fellas. You earned it.

It’s Complicated

Dylan Osetkowski

That was the most impressive performance by a guy who went 0-7 from the floor that I’ve seen in awhile. Credit due to DO for not getting down by his lack of points, he still contributed on defense and grabbing rebounds. Still, that was a lot of missed bunnies.

The Bad

The Refs

It takes a special kind of college ref to let contact on the perimeter go but call all sorts of minor contact down low, then add another layer of fuckery on top by not calling much of anything in the second half. It’s like they got all their foul calls out of the way in the first half and just let things go in the second half.

Texas is on a two-game win streak and there’s a real opportunity here to make it four or five games. They come home to face Kansas State and Oklahoma State before going on the road to Oklahoma. Kansas State is good, they’re in first place in the conference so none of us should assume it will be easy. But let me paint a picture for you. Here are the Pomeroy win probabilities for the next three games: 66%, 84%, and 47%, and I expect that 47% to rise as Oklahoma continues to slide. I have said that nine wins gets Texas into the tourney; well, they could get to 9-5 if they keep playing at this level against the upcoming opponents. More to the point, they need to leverage these games into wins because the final four games are @ Baylor, Iowa State, @ Texas Tech, and TCU. None of those will be easy games, so it would behoove this squad to get those wins in the next three games.

Before the games started today, I laid out my guesses at the records of each team when the regular season is over. Of course, they were probably completely wrong by halftime of the TCU/Iowa State game because hoo boy I did not see that thrashing coming.

For this to happen, Texas needs to beat Kansas State on Tuesday. Tip time is 8 PM CT on ESPN2, tune in and mock my misplaced optimism.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Balthazar & JackRock.