MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Through the first 16 games of the season, West Virginia's basketball team hadn't thrown too many dreadful performances up against a wall. On Monday night at the Coliseum, though, the Mountaineers made up for it with one that hit with a resounding splat.
Blame it on shooting, on the lack of an inside presence, on defensive lapses or almost anything else, but WVU just fell completely apart. The result was an 80-69 to Texas in front of a crowd of 8,706 that began filing out midway through the second half.
Bob Huggins? The Mountaineers coach chose to pinpoint shooting. It's not that he doesn't also fault a defense that allowed Texas to shoot 53 percent or a rebounding deficit that approached 20, but he knows those are areas that will be season-long projects.
Shooting the ball is what West Virginia needs to do in order to have a chance, and missing 21 of 25 3-point attempts just isn't going to get that done.
"We just didn't make any shots,'' Huggins said succinctly and without hesitation when asked what he saw as his team's fatal flaw. "If you make shots you play harder. And if you don't you put your head down. We just didn't make them.''
West Virginia paid dearly for that shooting deficiency. On the heels of Saturday's disappointing one-point loss to now-No. 9 Oklahoma State, the loss was yet another blow to the Mountaineers (10-7, 2-2 Big 12), who were swept at home in a three-day span after opening league play with a road sweep of TCU and Texas Tech.
Next up is a Saturday trip to Kansas State, followed by a home game a week from Wednesday against Texas Tech. If nothing else, the break could do WVU some good. Some, including Juwan Staten, saw the lack of any break between the OSU loss and Monday's game as a critical factor. It isn't that the Mountaineers had little time to recover physically - Texas actually had a tougher road after playing a Saturday game and then traveling on Sunday - but they might not have mentally left the 73-72 loss to Oklahoma State behind.
"I didn't think the Oklahoma State game would wear on us like that,'' Staten said. "That's what we tried to guard against, that kind of letdown or whatever it was, the Oklahoma State loss sticking with us. But we didn't.''
Texas (13-4, 2-2) won its second in a row by relying on what it does best - rebound the basketball. A 49-30 advantage actually seemed even more pronounced at times and Texas also shot 52.7 percent.
But even that might not have mattered had West Virginia made shots - almost any shots. Terry Henderson made a 3-pointer for WVU to open the game and the next one the Mountaineer made came with nine minutes to play after Texas had already led by as many as 20 points. It was a dry spell of 15 straight shots.
In some ways, the game mirrored one the teams played a year ago in Austin, with one glaring difference. In that one the Mountaineers trailed by double digits virtually the entire second half and by 10 with just 31/2 minutes to play before rallying to tie and win in overtime.
This year there was no such rally. In losing a game by double digits for the first time all season, West Virginia fell behind by 14 at halftime and by as many as 21 in the second half. It was reminiscent of the only other game this season in which WVU was simply routed - a game at Missouri in which the Mountaineers trailed big before rallying to close within single digits at the end.
Staten was really the only Mountaineer who played well. He had 23 points, made 9 of 14 shots, had five assists, two steals and just one turnover. Henderson had 16 points and Remi Dibo 10.
Another thing that certainly hurt WVU was the absence of freshman Devin Williams, who played just 16 minutes and had no rebounds while suffering from the effects of the flu. Williams is averaging 8.1 rebounds and has five double-doubles.
"He's the only big body we have,'' Huggins said of the 6-foot-9, 255-pound Williams. "And when he's not very good, we're not very good in there.''
Texas, though, was good in there, especially with 6-9, 285-pound Cameron Ridley, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds, and 6-8, 240-pound Jonathan Holmes, who also had 12 boards. Guard Javan Felix led Texas with 19 points
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
TEXAS 80, WVU 69
FG FT Reb
TEXAS Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Taylor 33 3-9 4-6 1-8 4 4 10
Holland 28 3-5 1-2 0-0 3 1 7
Felix 28 8-13 2-2 0-2 2 4 19
Holmes 26 2-7 4-6 2-12 2 1 9
Ridley 29 6-8 0-0 4-12 0 2 12
Croaker 6 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 2
Lammert 20 3-6 2-2 1-6 2 3 8
Walker 19 2-4 4-4 0-3 1 0 10
Ibeh 11 1-1 1-1 1-5 0 2 3