West Virginia Bounces Back With Blowout Of Texas
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Sometimes in sports – and in life – it takes a bad moment to spur on a good one.
So it was for the Mountaineer basketball team, which got dusted at Kansas State, 84-68, but barely 48 hours later turned things around in a big way, blowing out Texas (97-59) Monday night at the WVU Coliseum.
“We got embarrassed by Kansas State,” admitted WVU sophomore forward Derek Culver. “Kansas State is a good team, but I feel we’re better. We came out and played to their level.
“We just had more want-to this game against Texas, more will-to-win. The last performance wasn’t good at all. We got embarrassed. We weren’t going to let that happen again tonight.
“That fire that was lit at Kansas State, people saw that today,” said Culver, who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
West Virginia dominated in most every way, shape and form Monday. It outrebounded Texas 53-25, outscored the Longhorns 24-1 in points off turnovers and for just the third time this season converted better than 50 percent of its field goal attempts (36-of-70).
It was the worst beating a Shaka Smart UT team has ever taken against a Big 12 opponent. The fifth-year Texas coach also suffered his second-worst Big 12 defeat against WVU, losing 86-51 in Morgantown two years ago.
“It’s not Shaka; Shaka is a good coach,” stated Mountaineer veteran coach Bob Huggins. “We made shots tonight, and we’re coming off being embarrassed.
“You ever have a bad (radio) show. You ever walk in there not as well prepared as other days and just not as excited to do it. Then that show probably isn’t very good. That’s the way we were (on Saturday).
“Today was different,” he continued, as his club improved to 15-3 on the season and 4-2 in conference play. “They did pretty much what we asked them to do. We got some easy baskets, and rebounded it much better than we had. This game is so mental. If you come in and you’re excited and prepared, you’re normally going to have success.”
West Virginia’s defense was very good Monday, limiting Texas to just 19-of-53 from the floor (35.8 percent) and 9-of-29 from 3-point range (31 percent), while forcing 18 UT turnovers.
“Defensive intensity,” said Mountaineer sophomore guard Jordan McCabe when asked the difference between Saturday’s performance in giving up 84 points to K-State and Monday’s in allowing just 59 to Texas. “It always starts with defense for us. Other teams like to say that, but Huggs has a way of getting you to do it, whether you want to or not. It’s not always easy chasing guys around in the halfcourt and doing all the dirty stuff.”
The Mountaineers were good on the defensive end against the ‘Horns, but they also were incredibly efficient offensively. For just the second time ever in a Big 12 game, WVU scored at least 97 points, had eight or fewer turnovers and made better than 51 percent of its field goal attempts – he other coming in a win against Iowa State in 2014 with 107 points, eight turnovers and a 53.9 shooting percent.
West Virginia’s offensive effort was spurred in large part by 52 points in the paint and by outscoring the Longhorns 27-4 in second-chance points because the Mountaineers muscled their way to 23 offensive rebounds compared to just seven for Texas.
“Huggs said it perfectly this morning,” remembered McCabe. “He said we’re a really crappy – he didn’t use crappy – we’re a really crappy finesse, soft team. But we’re a damn good hard-playing ball club. When we play the way we did tonight, we have all the pieces to go win a national championship.”
“We’ve got guys who are physical, tough guys,” added Huggins. “We have to do what we’re good at doing, and we can’t be who we’re not. When we don’t try to be who we’re not, we’re pretty good. We’re good at what we do, but we have to do it all the time.”
Lost in the disappointment of Saturday’s loss to K-State is the fact that West Virginia still is ranked No. 14 in the country and features a starting lineup that contains just one senior to go along with three sophomores and one freshman.
“We’re learning. We’re young,” noted McCabe, who scored a season-high 10 points while registering a season-best 29 minutes Monday. “I had to remind myself of that in my own head multiple times. You just have to keep learning. K-State was a learning experience unfortunately. You’d rather learn and win, but sometimes that’s not your option. For us to bounce back like we did tonight, that’s really telling.”