AUSTIN, Texas - If there was ever a basketball game played in complete contradiction with itself, it took place Wednesday night here at the Erwin Center.
West Virginia was, for the most part, just awful.
One of the worst shooting teams in America was even worse than usual. Through 32 minutes the success rate was but 25 percent. Through almost 37 the Mountaineers had failed to do something they've not failed to do in 436 games and 13 years -- make a 3-pointer.
Throw in the fact that Texas, playing at home in a place it had lost but 15 times in 172 games, was well in command, having taken the lead at the end of the first half and stretched it to as much as 13 with less than nine minutes to play.
The contradiction? Well, West Virginia didn't just go quietly into the night. And somehow, some way, proved that Texas is not nearly as invincible at home as it might appear.
Somehow managing to play with the same intensity in the final five minutes as the first five and just blindly plugging away no matter the score, West Virginia stunned Texas Wednesday night, erasing that 13-point deficit and winning 57-53 in overtime.
The toughness that coach Bob Huggins has complained all year is lacking? It was back.
"Hopefully, this kind of gets us back to being my team,'' Huggins said after the improbable win in front of a crowd of 6,297.
Well, at least for a night it certainly did.
"It comes down to toughness,'' Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "When it was winning time, they wanted the game more than we did.''
That the game was even up for grabs, though, was amazing.
Consider all that WVU was up against, including the self-imposed:
| The Mountaineers came into the game ranked 306th in the nation in shooting and 318th in 3-point accuracy. And, yes, Texas leads the nation in both of those categories on the flip side -- percentage defense, but with eight minutes to play, WVU was shooting an awful-even--for-it 25 percent and was 0-for-13 on 3s.
| West Virginia's shooting was so bad for so long, in fact, that until just 3:14 remained in the game the Mountaineers were in danger of snapping a streak of 3-pointers that dated to a 1999 game against Robert Morris. It took Kevin Noreen, of all players, to finally make one.
| Oh, and WVU played the second half without point guard Juwan Staten, heretofore perhaps the most indispensable Mountaineer, leading the team in both scoring and playing time. Huggins benched him for the second half because he apparently wasn't doing what Huggins wanted him to do.
"It's my team, not his,'' Huggins said. "We talk about being on the same page? I wrote the book.''
Yet despite all that and even while trailing by 13 points, 42-29, with eight minutes to play, West Virginia fought back. It was still a 10-point game before Noreen finally made his 3-pointer with 3:14 to play to cut it to 47-40.
"I really didn't know we were shooting that poorly,'' said Noreen, who in a rare start had five points and 13 rebounds. "I was open and I took the shot.''
At the time, it seemed as if the shot would do little more than preserve that 13-year streak. It did much more. A few moments later Jabarie Hinds -- three-for-15 shooting at the time -- drained another. Gary Brown's steal and layup tied the score with 1:26 to play and freshman Eron Harris gave the Mountaineers the lead with the third -- and last -- 3-pointer with 16.4 seconds.
That might have stood had it not been for a clutch 3 by Texas' Jonathan Holmes to send the game into overtime, but in truth the Mountaineers were just getting started. In a five-minute game, WVU's intensity was the difference.
"West Virginia took it,'' Barnes said. "It was there for the taking and they took it.''
As it turns out, Browne made the winning points with free throws in overtime and Aaric Murray stole a cross-court pass by Texas and made two free throws at the end to seal the upset.
The win was significant for the Mountaineers because it was the first of the season in a true road environment and allowed them to avoid digging an 0-2 hole in the Big 12 standings. West Virginia is now 8-6 overall, 1-1 in the league.
It was also stunning in that Texas (8-7, 0-2) saw broken that streak of 14 consecutive wins in Big 12 home openers. The Longhorns also suffered just their 16th loss in 173 games at the Erwin Center since the start of the 2002-03 season.
Despite missing four free throws in a row to start the overtime, West Virginia took the lead from the line on two shots each by Browne for a 54-52 lead. They also had an amazing one-minute, 46-second possession with that lead in which they got four shots and didn't score, but ran valuable time off the clock.
That possession ended with Deniz Kilicli's fifth foul, but Texas freshman Prince Ibeh made only one of the two free throws and WVU still led 54-53.
With 21 seconds to play, Harris, who had made the huge 3 near the end of regulation, missed a 3 near the end of the shot clock, but Dominique Rutledge managed to tap the rebound out to Browne, who was fouled with 15.8 seconds to play and made one shot to make it 55-53.
That's when Murray made the steal with 6.5 seconds to go and his two free throws sealed the win.
With the first Big 12 win out of the way, West Virginia will try again Saturday for its first-ever Big 12 home win, but that won't be easy. The opponent for the 1:30 p.m. game at the Coliseum -- the only home game for WVU in a four-game stretch that began Wednesday night -- is No. 18 Kansas State. The Wildcats are 12-2 and have been idle since beating Oklahoma State on Saturday.
After the game with Kansas State, West Virginia plays twice on the road next week -- Wednesday at Iowa State and the final non-conference game of the year Saturday at Purdue.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com">dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
WEST VIRGINIA 57, TEXAS 53 OT