The Mountaineers won. They shot just 25 percent in the first half. And the ugly? Well, that's West Virginia's brand of basketball and the epitome of the game. It was a gutty performance – if little else – punctuated by three consecutive offensive rebounds in a key overtime possession that deflated Texas’ will to win and propelled WVU to a 57-53 overtime victory.
That wasn’t the only positive. West Virginia (8-6, 1-1 Big 12) showed some resiliency, rallying from down 13 points in the second half to win. WVU held UT to just eight points over the final 13:30 and overcame interior foul trouble. It managed an 11-4 edge in steals, giving it more overall possessions. It quelled the loss of point guard Juwan Staten - who had a conflict with Bob Huggins on how to play - with solid ballhandling from Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne. It had timely shots from Eron Harrris, Aaric Murray and Browne, and it did just enough from the free throw line down the stretch to grasp the win, keeping it from the seemingly growing jowels of defeat.
There were other bright spots. Dominique Rutledge had the key late rebound, feeding Browne, who was fouled and made one free throw for a two-point lead before Murray sealed it with a steal off a pass and the resulting free throws for the final margin. Before that, late in regulation, Eron Harris drilled a three from the corner to take a 50-47 lead after excellent ball movement by Hinds and Browne. That came after Texas was called for a shot clock violation following Bob Huggins decision to move to a 1-3-1 zone. Harris’ three, his only one of the game, put WVU ahead three after the Mountaineers had trailed since the 8:16 mark of the first half.
There was plenty of bad. The stats, again, look horrid. West Virginia, along with its uber-adventure of a 25 percent first half performance from the floor, shot just 30.6 percent for the game. The Mountaineers were an icy three of 20 (15 percent) from three-point range and made only 61.5 percent from the line after piecing together a couple solid games from the stripe. The saving grace for the road team was that the home team was a bit worse. Texas, in losing a second consecutive overtime game to begin Big 12 play, somehow missed 14 of 25 foul shots (44%), some of which barely hit the rim.
There were just five assists against 11 turnovers as the offense again stagnated at times. Players were in foul trouble from extremely early in the game. Neither team handled the ball well, and seemingly all missed shots from close range. Finishing was a struggle. Rotation was again not established because of every issue from fouls to ability to score to Staten’s time on the bench.
And the ugly – oh, the examples of ugly. The first half was the definition of slow play, the second perhaps a comedy of errors. Texas led 24-21 at the break. WVU shot just 25 percent for the period (eight of 32), it’s worst offensive half of the season. Hinds and Staten were a combined four for 17, with Hinds missing nine of 11 shots in another tough shooting half. The Mountaineers had just one assist and missed all 10 of their three-point tries while also giving up a 13-2 run that allowed the Longhorns to take the lead late.
For its part, Texas whiffed on 10 of its 14 foul shots and was outrebounded 22-15. It was an even worse than average display from two teams which have struggled to score the majority of the year. Andd it bled over into the second half. Consider only the latter quarter-plus of the period. With 11 minutes left, WVU gets a needed steal in transition, but Harrris blows the lay-up. The Mountaineers follow that by allowing a Texas tip-in, then another blown point-blank shot by Deniz Kilicli. His miss was quickly followed by his fourth foul. And one trip layer, Kilicli misses two consecutive free throws, and WVU is suddenly behind 42-29 with eight minutes left. Frankly, the margin was only that great because Texas couldn’t hit sand if it fell off a horse in Lubbock.
With five minutes left, WVU was zero of 14 from three-point range. With four minutes left, Kilicli missed yet another close shot, the Mountaineers got the rebound, and fed to Terry Henderson – who promptly lost the handle for the 11th turnover of the game. A Texas offensive rebound and score put the ‘Horns up 10 again at 47-37.
With three minutes left, Noreen hit WVU’s first three to bring WVU within 47-40 – and snap the streak of 14 straight misses. And with two minutes left, West Virginia seemed to finally snap out of its funk and play on both ends for what amounts, of now, to as key of a win as can be. Nobody will argue it was as great or gratifying as the football team’s victory in the same city. But it’s a victory. And for a program scratching through good, bad, and ugly, any win is attractive of now.