After missing its first 14 tries from 3-point range, WVU buried three critical trifectas to key a 13-3 run to conclude regulation and force overtime, where it outlasted the Longhorns in a 57-53 decision that was perhaps the program’s ugliest win in recent memory.
Sure, the Mountaineers shot only 30.6 percent from the field. But true to what Bob Huggins has preached early this season, WVU made up for that with its effort on the glass (17 offensive rebounds) and on defense, where it held Texas to only 34.5 percent shooting.
“That’s what we’ve done for a long time. I think we kind of recommitted to being able to do those things,” Huggins told the Mountaineer Sports Network.
Ugly or not, though, West Virginia will take the win. The Mountaineers (8-6, 1-1 Big 12) were on the cusp of another loss to an opponent not even ranked in the top 100 of the RPI, a loss that would have almost certainly ended any hope of making an NCAA Tournament run, before everything changed in the final minutes.
It began to turn when forward Kevin Noreen finally got WVU out of its long slumber from beyond the arc, drilling a 3-pointer with 3:14 to go to pull the visitors back within 47-40. Aaric Murray scored on the team’s next possession to make it 47-42, and Jabarie Hinds hit a 3 of his own on the next trip to get back within 47-45.
Player of the Game
Guard Gary Browne picked off an errant pass and scored a transition layup while being fouled to tie the game. He missed the bonus free throw, but the damage was done, as Texas’ double-digit lead -- which looked safe given the Mountaineers’ offensive issues -- was whittled away in less than two minutes.
Indeed, WVU actually had a 50-47 lead late in regulation after an Eron Harris 3-pointer before Texas’ Jonathan Holmes made a catch-and-release trifecta with 3.6 seconds left to force overtime. Undeterred, West Virginia dominated the glass and only allowed three points in the extra frame to secure the win.
“I’m proud of them,” Huggins said. “This is what I’m accustomed to seeing. I’m not accustomed to seeing that other stuff we were doing.”
There was plenty of “that other stuff” in the earlier stages, as West Virginia’s offense was no better in the first half than it had been in recent weeks.
The Mountaineers made up for that early with increased energy, though, as Huggins tweaked his starting lineup to include Noreen and Dominique Rutledge, relegating Deniz Kilicli and Murray to the bench.
The changes paid off in the opening minutes, as WVU jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead and grabbed seven of the game’s first eight rebounds. But foul trouble for Rutledge, Kilicli and Murray -- combined with another poor shooting effort -- allowed the Longhorns to claim a 24-21 lead by halftime.
West Virginia shot only 25 percent in the first half, including a 0-for-10 performance from 3-point range. That was poor enough to allow a Texas team that was badly outrebounded (23-16), shot only 4-of-14 from the free throw line and turned the ball over seven times in the first half to surge back to take the lead to the locker room.
Both Rutledge and Kilicli picked up three fouls in the first half, as Huggins desperately tried to keep a competitive frontcourt combination in the game. Those foul troubles would carry over to the second half -- Murray, Kilicli and Rutledge all had four fouls with more than 8:00 to go in regulation -- but only Kilicli ultimately fouled out, and that came late in overtime.
“I didn’t start Deniz and Aaric Murray because they were less than stellar down the stretch against Oklahoma,” Huggins said. “I didn’t think they competed the way they needed to compete. To their credit, I thought they really responded today.”
Murray led WVU with 12 points and 10 rebounds in only 26 minutes. He added four steals. Kilicli added eight points, while fellow reserve Gary Browne added nine. Hinds struggled from the field, making only 4-of-18 shots, but his 11 points were pivotal.
Guard Juwan Staten started and finished with four points in 13 minutes. The Dayton transfer did not play in the second half or overtime after a spat with Huggins.
“This isn’t his team. It’s mine. And he’s going to do what I tell him to do,” Huggins said. “He thought he had a better idea than I did. Whether he did or didn’t doesn’t matter. He’s going to do what I tell him to do. It’s really pretty simple.
“We’ve had breakdown after breakdown after breakdown because we had guys who didn’t listen and didn’t have everybody on the same page. We have to have everybody on the same page. It’s kind of my book, so they have to be on the page in my book.”
For Texas (8-7), Holmes scored 12 points and added nine rebounds. Freshman guard Javan Felix finished with 11 points and four assists.