Texas Guards Present Worries For Motivationally-Challenged WVU
“I think you always want to win.”
That was Bob Huggins’ reply to one of a series of repetitive questions the day before the Mountaineers host Texas at the WVU Coliseum, but in all honesty it might not be a thought that is shared by everyone on his team.
Sure, they might want to win in a general sense, but does everyone burn with the same hatred of losing that Huggins possesses, and are they willing to do anything to avoid it?
That’s one of several questions facing the Mountaineers as they enter the final eight games of the regular season, and as the answer to it has been less than an universal “yes” so far this year, it’s one of the major storylines for the stretch run.
Huggins, for his part, still mentions the possibility of going on a winning streak to forge a shot at a postseason bid, but at this point that would take a sweep of the final eight games plus at least a couple of wins in the Big 12 Championship to have even an outside shot at an NCAA at-large bid. Even an NIT berth would require a minimum 6-3 record down the stretch, and there’s not much in WVU’s play to this point that hints at that.
Texas, on the other hand, comes in with a still-good chance at making the at-large field, as well as with a bit of momentum. The Horns cooled off Baylor 84-72 on Wednesday and knocked off Kansas eight days prior. In between, they came up on the short end of a 65-60 decision at Iowa State, but acquitted themselves well in one of the toughest venues in the nation.
|WVU (10-13/2-8) vs. Texas (13-10/5-5)||Date: Sat Feb 9|
|Time: 8:00 PM ET||Venue: WVU Coliseum|
|Loc: Morgantown, WV||Series: UT 10-8|
|NET: WVU – 101 UT – 38||TV: ESPN2|
|Last: UT 61-54 (2019)||Twitter: @BlueGoldNews|
|Facebook: BlueGoldNews||Web: BlueGoldNews.com|
That stretch of play, though, only serves to highlight UT’s up and down nature so far this year. Wins over Arkansas, North Carolina, Purdue and Kansas State have been offset by losses to Providence, Georgia and Oklahoma State, making the second half of the season a critical stretch for Shaka Smart’s club.
Despite the productivity of Texas bigs Dylan Osetkowski (Sr., 6-9, 250 pounds) and Jaxson Hayes (Fr., 6-11, 220 pounds) West Virginia assistant coaches Ron Everhart and Larry Harrison both see the backcourt duo of Matt Coleman (6-2, 180 pounds) and Kerwin Roach (6-4, 180 pounds) as the linchpins to the team’s success.
“Without a doubt they are the key,” Everhart said. “In our first game, I thought Osetkowski was a huge key way the way he scored in the post, but ultimately it’s the guards that get him the ball. Collectively, their guards are as good as any in the league, and they can play four out with (Courtney) Ramey and (Jase) Febres Can play four with Febres. They are very good at spreading you out.”
“We have to contain their guards. They like to push the ball downcourt in transition, and then they try to isolate you inside. But it’s mainly their guards,” he told WVU play-by-play man Tony Caridi.
The duo sparked the win over Baylor, with Roach scoring 21 points and Coleman adding 18. Each hit a pair of threes, which helped open penetration and passing alleys to the big men inside.
Texas’ four road losses in Big 12 Conference play have come by an average of 3.5 points.
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West Virginia is shooting 41.57 % from the field this year. Since 1957, only five teams have compiled worse shooting percentages. Two of those were the 2012-13 and 2014-15 teams.
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In its last two Big 12 wins, the Longhorns have snapped lengthy losing streaks. UT’s win over Kansas was the first in 11 tries against the Jayhawks, dating back to February, 2014. The Baylor victory ended a six-game schneid against the Bears.
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Despite the big presence of Hayes and Osetkowski, Texas has been weak on the boards. That duo has accounted for 305 of UT’s 803 rebounds this year, combining to average 12.3 per game. No other Longhorn tallies more than 4.6, leaving the team with a per game average of 34.9, which is 218th nationally.
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Texas’ Andrew Jones, who was diagnosed with leukemia 13 months ago, has forged a determined recovery path. He played in two games early in the season before undergoing additional planned treatments, and has recently returned to the practice court.