Don’t count the Mountaineers out — No. 13 West Virginia overcame a double-digit deficit to take down 12th-ranked Texas for a revenge win over the Longhorns in Austin, 84-82.
Texas led by as many as 19 points in the second half after an offensively explosive first half, shooting 70 percent from the field. WVU put down the clamps down the stretch, however, and forced the Longhorns to attempt a game-winner in the final seconds that was unsuccessful.
The Mountaineer defense was lackluster in the opening moments and allowed Texas to jump ahead early. Several Longhorns jumped on this opportunity and got off to a strong start in the scoring column.
Jericho Sims really got going early, adding 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting. As his foul total started growing, Shaka Smart opted to put him on the bench for the half after just six minutes. That was no worry for the Longhorns, as Matt Coleman III and Courtney Ramey combined for 25 points on 9-for-11 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 from three-point range.
WVU’s offense wasn’t quite a strong to start out. Miles McBride and Taz Sherman both notched double-digits in the first half, but the team made just 37.5 percent of their shots and were dominated on the boards, 20-14.
Texas’s momentum spilled over into the second half, as the Longhorns made a trio of three-pointers to get the lead to 19 — their high water mark for the game. At this point, though, the pendulum shifted.
WVU took charged and went on a 12-2 run, powered through with a couple of three-pointers from Sean McNeil. In the midst of this swing, Longhorns Ramey and Andrew Jones got in a verbal altercation in the huddle that appeared to be the turning point — whether figurative or literal — of the contest.
After his first two buckets of the game during the run, McNeil didn’t stop. He went on to score a total of 16 points — all in the second half — as he helped WVU whittle the lead down.
West Virginia’s defense got a lot stronger in the second half as well. Texas made just 38 percent of its shots in the second half, and the Mountaineers capitalized by winning the rebounding battle, 17-14.
“It was a little bit different from what we usually do in man-to-man, but it was man-to-man, and it worked,” said WVU forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. “We got them to take some shots that were questionable, and I think in the first half we didn’t get those rebounds and gave them second chance buckets, and that’s what we took away in the second half.”
With 7:29 remaining, McBride hit a three-pointer to finally tie the game up, giving the Mountaineers a taste of the lead for the first time since the 16:59 mark of the first half.
Interestingly, that was West Virginia’s last field goal of the game, however consistent trips to the free throw line still allowed them to build a lead. A pair of three-pointers from Ramey wiped that away, however, but WVU’s free throw shooting eventually put them back up by two with just under two minutes to go.
It all came down to one possession for Texas, as Jones attempted a three-pointer that went off the back iron.
“He shot and he said ‘Game,'” Matthews Jr. said. “So I knew he was gonna miss when he said that. Not a lot of people can be that confident to call game and then make that shot in that situation, but he’s a hell of a player.”
The Longhorns got one more try with 0.3 seconds on the clock, and they attempted a lob to Sims — luckily for WVU, McBride got a fingertip on the ball to deflect the shot attempt, giving WVU the win.
“We played hard, we played hard in the second half,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “The second half is the way we need to play all the time. I mean, we haven’t done it, but that’s the way we need to play the second half.”
McBride was the high scorer for WVU, scoring 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting to go along with four assists and three rebounds. Just behind him were McNeil’s 16 points, and a trio of 14-point performances from Derek Culver, Emmitt Matthews and Sherman.
Ramey’s game-high 28 points was one of two 20-point games for Texas, along with Coleman III, who missed just one shot all game. Sims was kept relatively quite in the second half, adding four points to finish with a total of 14.
The win for West Virginia moves it to 8-4 in the Big 12, which evens them with third-place Oklahoma, with the tie-breaker going to the Sooners. WVU is now 15-6 overall on the season, while head coach Bob Huggins earns win No. 896 for his career.
The Longhorns move to 7-5 in the conference, a spot behind West Virginia, and fall to an overall record of 15-6.
This is the first game in a three-game road trip for West Virginia around the Lone Star State. The Mountaineers next head to Fort Worth to face TCU, followed by a trip to Waco to face No. 2 Baylor — both of those contests will be the first meetings of the season.