The travails and challenges of playing on the road in the Big 12 Conference caught up with No. 12 West Virginia on Saturday, and the Mountaineers will look to rebound when they host Texas on Monday in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Both teams head to Monday’s game after losses – the Mountaineers were waylaid on the road by Kansas State 84-68 while Texas dropped a 66-57 decision at home to No. 6 Kansas.
The surprise of the two was West Virginia’s defeat. The Mountaineers were plagued by turnovers, poor shooting and even worse defense and, according to coach Bob Huggins, were just not ready to play.
“We weren’t ready Friday and we weren’t ready Saturday,” Huggins said on his postgame radio show. “It’s so much a mental game. All the talk in the media around here was that Kansas State was desperate and 0-4 in the league. Our guys weren’t desperate. They came in and just took it to us to start.”
For West Virginia (14-3, 3-2 Big 12), it was without a doubt the worst performance of the season. The Mountaineers turned the ball over 18 times on Saturday and nine different West Virginia players had at least one, led by three each from starters Jordan McCabe, Jermaine Haley and Emmitt Matthews.
Chase Harler and Miles McBride each scored 11 to lead the Mountaineers while Gabe Osabuohien scored a season-high 10 points in the loss. West Virginia’s highly touted front court was mostly held in check with forward Derek Culver finishing with 8 points and 3 rebounds, with freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe scored 8 and grabbed 7 boards.
The Longhorns faltered in the end game and it cost them Saturday. Texas and Kansas were tied at 54 with 4:48 to play before the Jayhawks took over, scoring eight straight points.
“As a collective group we let go of the rope,” Texas guard Courtney Ramey said. “We had a chance to win but they just made more plays than we did down the stretch. We got a little stagnant and took some tougher shots than we should have.”
Jericho Sims scored a career-high 20 points for Texas (12-5, 2-3), with Matt Coleman III adding 10 points in the loss. The Longhorns had a two-game win streak snapped.
“Like all losses, there are things I could have done better to help us win,” Sims said. “I’ve just been trying to grow and improve and my teammates have been helping me with that.”
Texas carried a 31-26 lead to halftime thanks to a strong defensive effort that held the Jayhawks to just nine points over the final 12 minutes of the half.
“We had the advantage in aggressiveness in the first half and we built a lead, but we wanted to extend it even more,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “The way we defended, we needed to have a bigger lead. We had the opportunities.”
The Longhorns lead the all-time series with West Virginia 11-8 and won both of the games played between the two teams last season, including an impressive 75-53 victory in Morgantown.
–Field Level Media