No. 12 Texas hosts No. 13 West Virginia in key Big 12 battle
No. 12 Texas looks for the season sweep against No. 13 West Virginia when the two heavyweights meet Saturday afternoon in Austin in a dustup that will have serious implications on the Big 12 Conference race.
The Longhorns (13-5) and Mountaineers (14-6) both come in with 7-4 league records, tied for fourth. Texas won the season's first matchup 72-70 on an Andrew Jones 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in Morgantown, W.Va., on Jan. 9.
In a season of starts and stops and adjustments aplenty, Texas and West Virginia are in makeup mode, trying to get in as many games as possible between now and the Big 12 tournament (set for March 10-13 in Kansas City, Mo.).
The Longhorns were supposed to play at No. 9 Oklahoma on Tuesday and then at Iowa State on Thursday, but those games were postponed when a freak snow and ice storm hit Texas this week, making travel all but impossible.
West Virginia was scheduled to play No. 2 Baylor in back-to-back games on Feb. 15 in Morgantown and then on Feb. 18 in Waco, Texas, but those contests were postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the Baylor program.
Texas' most recent game was a dominating 70-55 win at home over TCU on Feb. 13. Jones scored 19 points and Matt Coleman III added 15 for the Longhorns. Greg Brown pumped in 13, and Jericho Sims hit for 11 points and took eight rebounds for Texas, which has captured two straight after dropping three games in a row.
"I felt like today, for the first time in quite a while, that was kind of where we want it to be," Texas coach Shaka Smart said after the win over TCU.
The Longhorns looked like their early-season selves against TCU after COVID-19 ravaged the team for the better part of a month.
"With the games being played, with the practices that we've had, it allowed us to reconnect and focus on each other," Coleman said. "And to understand our circle -- that's what we call it -- of why we play and the process in order to win."
The Mountaineers also have had a full week off following a double-overtime 91-90 loss at home to Oklahoma on Feb. 13.
West Virginia had its chances to beat the Sooners but was just 11 of 21 from the free throw line, including two huge misses by Gabe Osabuohien with the Mountaineers up 72-70 with 45 seconds remaining in regulation.
Derek Culver, who led West Virginia with 29 points and 14 rebounds in the loss to Oklahoma, was only 3 of 7 from the line while Miles McBride, an 83.5 percent free throw shooter entering the contest, misfired on three of his eight attempts.
"(Missed free throws) killed us and missing one-footers repeatedly all day didn't help us either," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said afterward. "We just didn't finish."
Sean McNeil added 21 points for the Mountaineers in the loss, with McBride scoring 19.
Huggins blamed his team's poor practices heading up to the Oklahoma game for the loss.
"We didn't have good practices," Huggins said afterward. "Generally speaking, when you fumble balls, miss a lot of shots you normally make, miss free throws, one-footers and three-, four-footers, it's hard to win."
Saturday's game in Austin begins a three-games-in-six-days road stretch for West Virginia, with the Mountaineers staying in Texas for games at TCU on Tuesday and at Baylor on Thursday.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 18, 2021