UPDATING THE LONGHORNS
That's just what West Virginia is shooting for, however, when the Longhorns visit Morgantown for WVU's second consecutive Big Monday appearance.
Since dropping an overtime decision to WVU, Texas is 2-4 with wins over the two bottom teams in the league. UT has done less with more than any other squad in the Big 12, even given the absence of sophomore star Myck Kabaongo, who returns from suspension later this month. UT has played six freshmen extensively this year, but given their talent level, more was expected from the Longhorns this season.
UT continues to play well defensively, holding foes to just 36% shooting from the field and 25.5& from three-point range. However, three of its foes since the first West Virginia game have scored 73 points or more.
Individually, freshman Ioannis Papapetrou (6-8, 225 lbs.) has been on an upward arc recently, averaging 11 points per game in his last six outings.
Sheldon McClellan (So., 6-4, 200 lbs.) and Julien Lewis (So., 6-3, 190) continue to pace the Longhorns with 14.8 and 11.5 points per game, respectively, while Jonathan Holmes (So., 6-7, 240 lbs.) leads the team in rebounding with 7.1 per outing. Texas has also continued to improve its shot blocking, totaling 108 rejections on the season. Cameron Ridley Fr., 6-9, 270 lbs.) has served up 40 Wilsonburgers on the season, and is abetted by 6-10 freshman Prince Ibeh (23), Holmes (17) and Papapetrou (15). Their presence is a major factor in Texas' field goal defense numbers, as they force just as many adjustments and missed shots as they have blocks.
If WVU is to achieve the season sweep, it must challenge Texas' defense, and not settle for long range jumpers and fadeaways.
9:00 PM E
Morgantown, W. Va./td>
UT 10-11, 2-6
WVU - 108
UT - 139
Texas blocks and alters many shots because opponents are worried about shots being blocked. West Virginia can't fall into that trap -- WVU must take the ball up strong inside and get into the bodes of Texas' shot blockers. If they allow Longhorn defenders to jump and extend their arms freely, shots will head the opposite direction in a hurry.
WVU also can't settle for threes, especially given their success against Texas Tech from long range. While it would be nice to think that the Mountaineers have broken out of their season long shooting woes, WVU can't count on hitting double-digits threes in every game. West Virginia must do what it did successfully against the Red Raiders -- move the ball well on the perimeter to get the defense out of position, then attack the resulting seams to get good shots.
Defensively, WVU has to keep point guard Javan Felix from driving the ball freely into the lane. When West Virginia has been poor defensively, it has often resulted from straight-line drives down the lane. WVU does not rotate or drop down from the weak side well when penetration occurs, so in order to keep Texas from getting scoring chances at point blank range, the Mountaineers must keep Texas out of the lane. WVU could resort to its point drop defense again at times, but at some point it will have to be able to play man-to-man and prevent those direct line forays into the paint.
WVU pinned Texas coach Rick Barnes with his first loss in a Big 12 conference opener when it knocked off the Horns on Jan. 9. Prior to that game, UT was 14-0 under Barnes in Big 12 home lidlifters.
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A bit of a health watch is in effect for West Virginia. Matt Humphrey has missed the last two games with swelling and inflammation in his shoulder, while Terry Henderson has battled back spasms. Henderson played just ten minutes against Texas Tech, but made a trio of three-pointers to help spark the win. WVU is a team that needs every available player as it looks for scoring, so absences and limited availability are certainly problems to watch.
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Like West Virginia, Texas' NCAA hopes are on life support. The Longhorns have gone to the Big Dance a school record 14 consecutive seasons entering this year.
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Due to injuries and disciplinary action, West Virginia has just four players who have appeared in all 21 games this year. Jabarie Hinds, Deniz Kilicli, Keaton Miles and Gary Browne make up that quartet. No Mountaineer is averaging 30 minutes per game.