MORGANTOWN — With four players averaging double figures and a fifth at just below nine points per game coming in, No. 4 Texas certainly brought with it a plethora of options.
And with the game on the line, it was one more than No. 14 WVU could cover.
With the Mountaineers clinging to a one-point lead in the waning seconds of the second half, and with WVU defense collapsing on Longhorns guard Courtney Ramey, Andrew Jones was left open and buried a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds to go to send the Longhorns to a 72-70 win Saturday at the Coliseum.
It was a crushing loss for West Virginia, which led by as many as nine points in the second half and by five with 1:41 remaining after a Taz Sherman jump shot.
But after two offensive rebounds with under a minute to go, WVU’s Emmitt Matthews went 0 for 2 at the free-throw line with 10.8 seconds to go. Texas coach Shaka Smart opted not to use a timeout and Ramey sprinted toward the lane before kicking out to Jones for what proved to be the game-winner.
It capped a 7-0 closing run for the Longhorns and landed like a gut punch to the Mountaineers (9-4 overall, 2-3 Big 12 Conference).
“Real tough,” WVU point guard Miles “Deuce” McBride said. “To have the lead almost the whole game and to give it up like that, it’s just a real tough one. But we’ll think about it today, tonight and tomorrow we’ll move on.”
The back-breaking play was a microcosm of what kept Texas hanging around despite trailing for 33:01 of playing time — balanced production and dribble penetration from its guard trio of Ramey, Jones and Matt Coleman in particular. Texas (10-1, 4-0) outscored the Mountaineers 40-22 in the paint, including 12 layups and four dunks, a problem that has loomed most of the season for WVU.
Though Jones’ game-winner was a 3, the Longhorns were just 4 for 19 from the perimeter thanks to its efficiency in close.
“I don’t know what else to do,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “We tried 1-2-2 zone, it didn’t work. We tried 3-2 zone, it didn’t work. We tried 1-3-1, it didn’t work. Our man-to-man was much better than any of those. We tried to press, that didn’t work.
“We’re just not as athletic as they were and they’re experienced … in this day and age with guys picking up and leaving, transferring, guys putting their name in the draft to go to the NBA when they have zero chance of going to the NBA, it’s a great thing when you can keep your team together like that.”
To Huggins’ point, Coleman is a senior while Jones and Ramey are both Juniors. They were three of five Longhorns in double figures Saturday, with Ramey leading all scorers with 19 points to go with a game-best six assists. Jones finished with 16 points, Coleman with 13, freshman forward Greg Brown had 12 points and 14 rebounds and Kai Jones had 10 points.
That balance is tough for any opposing defense to handle, and WVU guard Taz Sherman admitted it was an issue that faced WVU’s defense all game long.
“It’s hard to guard a team that has five capable scorers,” Sherman said. “You have to be accountable for everyone.
“They do a good job of moving the ball, finding what their guys do the best and putting them in the best spots, and they’ve shown it.”
The inability to put together two halves has also become a trend for West Virginia and, at least offensively, the Mountaineers were unable to keep up the pace they set for themselves in Saturday’s opening 20 minutes. The Mountaineers 14 of 28 (50%) from the floor in the opening half and 6 for 13 (46%) from 3-point range, but those numbers plummeted to 10 for 34 (29. 4%) and 3 for 12 (25%) in the second half.
That included a mixed-bag day for WVU big man Derek Culver, who finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds but shot just 6 for 16 from the floor and 2 for 6 from the foul line.
“I thought there was a lot of contact in the post, those are shots Derek usually makes,” Huggins said, referring to a physical game that included 36 foul calls.
Sherman led West Virginia with 17 points off the bench, though 13 of those came in the first half. Sean McNeil joined Culver with 14 points while McBride chipped in with 12. Matthews finished with nine points and eight boards.
The Big 12 Conference announced Monday that the West Virginia University men’s basketball game at Baylor scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 12 was postponed in accordance with the Conference’s game interruption guidelines.
The postponement is in response to West Virginia being unable to meet the required COVID-19 thresholds on Monday, as established by the Big 12 Conference. WVU will work with the Big 12 Conference and Baylor to reschedule the game.
“Our intent is to get the spread under control as soon as possible for the health and safety of all involved,” Lyons said. “While this issue has hit many college basketball programs, we have been fortunate to have played 13 games so far this season.”
No determination has been made for any future WVU games at this time.