West Virginia, to its credit, tried to ride its guards as Staten, Harris and Terry Henderson took 37 of the Mountaineers’ 58 shots. But the trio combined to hit just 15 of those, and Staten and Harris couldn’t convert consistently enough to counter UT’s center-forward combination of Ridley Cameron and Jonathan Holmes. Cameron, at 6-9 and 285 pounds, controlled the contest from the post on both ends, finishing with 17 points, six rebounds and three blocks and continually altering shots. Holmes tallied 11 points and seven boards, and the duo limited WVU’s Devin Williams to just two points on one of five shooting.
“They were the aggressor,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said on the MSN by IMG postgame radio show. “It’s hard for us when we don’t make shots and we didn’t make shots. We had several very good looks that we didn’t make and when we don’t make those it’s hard.”
Texas rode a 16-2 run to lead by as many as 16 in the opening half, then kept WVU at bay with an 8-0 burst early in the second that turned a 40-34 game into a comfortable 14-point margin with more than 16 minutes left. The Mountaineers never again cut the deficit to single digits, and were continually hurt by putbacks and scores on the block; Texas shot a sizzling 58 percent largely via a 46-14 edge in points in the paint. The Longhorns, after managing a 19-board edge in the first series meeting, outrebounded West Virginia 42-26 tonight.
“You can’t let people shoot 58 percent,” Huggins said. “I swear I had teams that I could have brought the Celtics in and they wouldn’t have shot 58 percent. Our resolve when the ball goes in isn’t very good. It needs to be way better. It’s a deal where they have really good players, a bunch of really good players. We have good players. Are we ever going to have the best five players in America? Probably not. Can we have the five guys who pay the best together? Yes, we can. That’s what we have to strive for.
“We don’t make rotations defensively. This group stands and watches and watches and watches. We haven’t gotten to 50-50 balls. We don’t block out every time. We give too much penetration. We have to fortify the paint, we can’t let them attack the paint by pass or dribble. They score 46 in the paint, we aren’t going to win.”
WVU missed 15 of 23 three-pointers, but did get reasonably balanced scoring with five players in double figures. Henderson tallied 10 and Nathan Adrian and Gary Browne came off the bench to score 12 and 10 respectively. Adrian hit four of nine threes, but was a microcosm of the game as a whole, as all of the forward’s shots were from beyond three-point range. Even when WVU went to its more traditional forwards in Williams and Brandon Watkins, they were never able to generate anything on the block. Guard Javan Felix led Texas with 18 points.
There were five ties and five lead changes, all in the first half, as Texas (20-5, 9-3 Big 12)
remained just one game back of league leader Kansas. West Virginia (15-11, 7-6) fell to sixth place with five regular season games to play and suffered a sweep by the ‘Horns one season after sweeping UT in its inaugural season of Big 12 play.
Texas led 40-29 at the break after leading by as many as 16 in the opening half. The Longhorns exploited a clear interior edge, hitting 17 of 28 shots (60.7 percent), including 15 of 21 inside the arc. Ridley dominated the paint, recording three blocks and continually changing shots. WVU was never able to consistently challenge the rim, and compounded the problem by misfiring on seven of its first nine threes.
The teams played evenly over the first 10 minutes, exchanging leads and ties with no deficit greater than three. UT assumed control with a 16-2 run for a 28-16 lead with six minutes to play. The Mountaineers stayed within striking distance via four Harris free throws and a jumper by Staten before Adrian canned a three with 33 seconds left for the halftime score. Staten reached the 1,000th-point mark for his career and amassed seven assists, six rebounds and two steals against just one turnover.
The Mountaineers, which had won four of five entering, have three home and two road games remaining and are now off one week before a key home game against Baylor.
“I thought we were getting back to being West Virginia’s team,” Huggins said. “People were saying they really enjoyed watching this team. We dropped the ball tonight. The execution was very poor. When you’re not as good as other people, your commitment level has to be greater. … The run ain’t over. We aren’t dead yet. We gotta got get Baylor.”