The first time, when the Longhorns left Morgantown with an 80-69 victory, it was Texas' size and ability to rebound the basketball that West Virginia was not quite able to overcome.
But on Saturday, it was a total defensive effort that led to the Mountaineers' demise in Austin. For 40 minutes, the Longhorns did just about everything they needed to in order to force the Mountaineers to struggle.
Most importantly, Texas knew coming into this one that if you want to slow down WVU you have to slow down point guard Juwan Staten.
Though just about everyone has tried, not many have been successful this season when it comes to stopping the talented junior. Even when he hasn't been at his best, Staten has been able to get to the rim at ease and distribute the ball to his teammates - which has allowed West Virginia to be one of the more dangerous offenses in the Big 12 Conference.
Texas kept him uncomfortable and frustrated him at times. Any time he would try to get to the lane, the Longhorns would force him to go to his off hand and then another defender or two would meet him when he got to the paint.
The duo of Staten and sophomore Eron Harris were still able to combine for 35 points, but did so thanks to making 11 of their 15 attempts from the free throw line. They made just 11 out of 31 shots from the field.
Of course, it didn’t help much that the Mountaineers weren’t able to get a stop on the defensive end of the floor. Texas had its way with WVU and found ways to score and slow down any momentum that West Virginia would be able to string together.
The Longhorns made 58 percent of their shots and used that consistency on offense with the smothering defense to piece big runs together multiple times throughout the game.
There were plenty times where Saturday’s game looked like a mirror image of the first meeting between the two. Texas started strong, asserted itself inside early and often, rebounded well and didn’t let the Mountaineers get any rhythm going on offense.
And if there’s one thing that has been pretty evident with this WVU team, it’s that the Mountaineers are able to beat anyone when they’re having success offensively. But if shots aren’t falling and teams are getting West Virginia out of its comfort zone, forcing it to rely on making stops to have a chance to win, it’s going to have trouble beating good teams.
That was the case on Saturday, and Texas knew that heading into the game. The Longhorns forced WVU to play their game in Austin, and it worked out. The foundation for this West Virginia’s team’s success has always centered around the ability to get momentum and score the ball. The Mountaineers are 3-9 this season when scoring less than 75 points. If you can’t get to that magic number of 76, things will get much tougher for this team – thanks to its inability to get stops in crucial situations.
Texas was able to make West Virginia uncomfortable and outmanned the Mountaineers consistently for 40 minutes. In a battle between the two most-improved teams in the Big 12, the Longhorns were clearly ready and knew what they needed to do in order to limit WVU enough to pick up the victory.
And now, WVU has to bounce back next week against Baylor. It needs to – or else those hopes of making it to the NCAA tournament will go away again as quickly as they resurfaced over the course of the last week.