WVU gets monkey off its back with win over UT

Tuesday’s meeting between West Virginia and Texas felt personal for a lot of the players on the Mountaineer roster.

After suffering four losses by double digits in a row, WVU was wanting to avenge those defeats and stay on a roll as it heads into the final three games of the regular season. And with their 71-64 win at the Coliseum, the Mountaineers were able to do just that.

“The monkey is off our back,” said sophomore forward Devin Williams. “That’s for the whole team in general, for the coaching staff and the state of West Virginia as a whole.

“It feels good, we’ll soak it in. We just didn’t quit. We accepted the challenge.”

West Virginia’s bigs were the ones who took those losses, especially the 27-point loss in Austin about a month ago, the toughest. Williams, Jonathan Holton and the other players in the WVU frontcourt were manhandled by a Texas front that includes a handful of the biggest, strongest and toughest players the Mountaineers face all season.

But on Tuesday they went right after the Longhorns, jumping out to an 11-point lead within the first 10 minutes of the game and getting 14 of their first 17 points of the game in the paint.

The Mountaineers led by as many as 18 points with less than four minutes to play in the first half, clicking on all cylinders for large portions of the game’s opening period.

“In the first half we had 14 field goals and 11 were assisted. We didn’t settle,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. “We had a lot of patience. Devin played really well. We did better containing them and we didn’t turn it over. We let them run loose last time.”

Texas didn’t hang it up though. After heading to the locker room 11 points, Rick Barnes’ team made adjustments at the half and came storming back.

In less than four minutes, the Longhorns had cut the Mountaineers’ lead to just four points and once it became a 40-38 game, Huggins made the decision to make some changes for WVU defensively.

After working on it for about three weeks, West Virginia made the move to drop out of its full-court pressure – something it hasn’t done at all this season – and went into a 1-1-3 zone in the half court after a Daxter Miles three put the Mountaineers ahead by five.

From there, WVU got its cushion back, going on a 10-2 run and holding Texas to just 6-for-16 shooting from the field and three turnovers for the game’s final 13 minutes.

“We didn’t do what we wanted to do,” Barnes said. “The cutters weren’t there. We played against (the zone) last year and we know what to do against it. It’s about timing, but we threw the ball to the short corner.”

For Huggins, it was something the veteran coach wanted to do in order to change the game as he could sense the Longhorns gaining more and more momentum on the Mountaineers’ home court.

“We got three stops in a row or four out of five,” he said. “I don’t know how much we’re going to do it (moving forward). We will when we need to, obviously, but I like what we’re doing. It’s been good to us.”

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