Longhorns Out-Toughed by Mountaineers

Longhorns point to lack of toughness after falling 57-53 in overtime to West Virginia Wednesday night.

In coach speak, doing the little things often applies to minute details that elude your average fan, things like setting picks at the right angle, utilizing spacing and starting a post-up a few feet closer in.

But Wednesday night, Texas fell 57-53 in overtime for not doing the big things: making free throws, defending the arc and protecting the ball down the stretch and blocking out a strong rebounding team. And in the process, the Longhorns neglected what gave them a 13-point second-half lead in the first place.

"As a coach, when you look out, and honestly see your opponent wanting the game more, I think that's probably the most frustrating thing," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "It's the same thing that has happened a couple of times at the end of games. And we have played enough [of those games]. It gets down to toughness."

After taking an ugly 24-21 advantage into the locker room at halftime (Texas missed 10-of-14 free throws), Texas went up 13 points with 8:37 remaining on a Connor Lammert and-one play around the basket. It represented the high point for the Longhorns, who jumped their lead from four points with 12 minutes left by pounding inside — their last nine points the courtesy of plays in the paint or free throws.

But the Longhorns largely settled for jumpers in the next eight minutes in allowing West Virginia to come back. Texas still led 47-37 with a little more than three minutes left with Kevin Noreen hit the Mountaineers' first three-pointer. It was a key shot — West Virginia started the game 0-for-14, which would have been the school's worst-ever night from behind the arc.

More were coming. After a Prince Ibeh turnover, Aaric Murray pumped in a jumper. Julien Lewis missed a jumper of his own and Jabarie Hinds, who was 1-for-7 from behind the arc, hit his lone three, cutting the lead to just two points at 47-45. Those two points evaporated after Javan Felix turned the ball over and Gary Browne took it in for a layup and the foul. Browne missed the free throw, but the lead was gone, and the feeling was that it was just a matter of time before it went to the 'Eers, now surging with momentum.

And the Mountaineers did take the lead. Coming out of a timeout, the Longhorns stayed with a zone that had been so effective in limiting West Virginia to a poor shooting night. But they were able to generate an open look in the corner, with Gary Browne finding Eron Harris. It was Harris's only points of the night and the Mountaineers' third-straight three-point make after going 0-fer the game prior.

Then it was Texas's turn. The Longhorns opted for a driving shot, but Felix missed his chance at the bucket. The rebound was scooped up by Cameron Ridley with six seconds left and the Longhorns called timeout with five remaining. The ensuing playcall was for Sheldon McClellan coming off two screens, but McClellan was covered and Ioannis Papapetrou pitched the ball to Jonathan Holmes behind the arc. Holmes elevated over two Mountaineers and canned the shot with three seconds remaining, sending the once-sure Longhorn win into overtime.

"I thought we were going to win the game in overtime," Holmes said. "[I] never thought we were going to lose after that."

Texas took just five field goal attempts and three free throws in overtime, thanks to a long West Virginia possession that saw the Mountaineers grab three straight offensive rebounds and hold the ball for almost two minutes of game time.

"We are going to miss shots," said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. "We have got to figure out a way to get them back."

Still, that possession ended in a stop when Ibeh snagged his fourth chance at a board with 55 seconds remaining. But the Mountaineers, who led 54-52 at that point, fouled Ibeh just after the rebound, sending the unsure freshman to the line for a one-and-one.

Ibeh made the first, but missed the second. And though the Longhorns earned a stop when Harris missed a three-point attempt with 23 seconds left, Dominique Rutledge was able to plow in for yet another offensive rebound. Texas had to foul Browne, who missed one shot and made the second for a 55-53 lead with 15 seconds left.

This time, there would be no comeback. Papapetrou attempted a skip pass that was intercepted by Murray, and Murray hit two free throws with six seconds remaining to seal the result.

In a game that went to an extra stanza, it wasn't hard to see where the Longhorns left points on the floor.

Texas went to the line 25 times in the game but made just 11, a 44.0 percent rate from the charity stripe. That allowed West Virginia (16-of-26) to gain a five-point advantage from the free throw line despite shooting just 61.5 percent themselves, down from the Mountaineers' respectable 72 percent for the season.

And the Mountaineers (8-6, 1-1 Big 12), who entered the game grabbing 38.6 percent of the available offensive rebounds (25th best nationally), grabbed 17-of-43 potential offensive boards Wednesday night (39.5 percent). Noreen scored just five points, but he pulled down 13 boards, while Murray was the Mountaineers' leading scorer with 12 points and second-leading rebounder with 10 boards. Hinds was the only other Mountaineer to score in double digits, putting in 11 points, though he shot 4-of-18 from the field. As a team, West Virginia made 30.6 percent in the win.

"It's just being tough, and not being tough," Holmes said. "You have to finish the game. We didn't finish the game tonight. At the end of the day you just have to go get the ball. They wanted the ball more, and that's why we lost."

Texas was paced by 12 points and nine rebounds by Holmes and 11 points by Felix. McClellan continued his cold-shooting run with nine points on 2-of-13 shooting, while Lewis was marginally better at 4-of-13 for another nine.

"It was a hard fought-game," Barnes said. "It was disappointing that when it was winning time, they wanted the game more than we did."

Wednesday's loss marked the second-consecutive overtime decision dropped by the Longhorns, with Texas falling to Baylor in an extra quarter last Saturday. It doesn't get much easier for Texas (8-7, 0-2), who will travel to Ames to take on Iowa State at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Cyclones are fresh off an overtime loss of their own, falling to Kansas in Lawrence Wednesday night.

Horns Digest Top Stories