No. 10 West Virginia entered hoping to hang a home loss on No. 24 Texas, evening up the season series and matching Kansas atop the Big 12 standings at 10-3 with five games to play. Instead, the Mountaineers fell 85-78 and watched Jaysean Paige literally walk into an ankle sprain at the 8:55 mark of the first half, causing him to miss the remainder of the opening period and play just three of the final 20 minutes while going scoreless.
His loss was compounded by West Virginia already being sans fellow guard Daxter Miles, who was out after suffering a right hamstring pull against TCU. That left Jevon Carter and Tarik Phillip in the backcourt, a duo that doesn't play together as often as the Carter-Miles and Paige-Phillip combos. Worse, with Phillip already saddled with two fouls, head coach Bob Huggins was forced to go big, or play transfer Teyvon Myers for extended stretches. Texas shredded both looks, using quick ball movement and drive-and-kicks for open threes that turned a 24-18 WVU led into a 39-32 deficit over just six minutes.
"We can't play the way we have been playing when we don't have enough people, and we don't have enough on the perimeter," Huggins said on the MSN by IMG postgame radio show. "We had to play Teyvon a bunch of minutes and another guy there who doesn't have the footspeed."
The Longhorns finished the half on a 27-12 run, with 18 points coming via six three-pointers. After Paige went down, UT ripped off five consecutive threes, the last of which put the Longhorns up 33-30, a lead they would hold for good over the final 24:16 of the game.
Much like the first contest, in which Texas committed just eight turnovers - the fewest of any Mountaineer opponent this season dating to this game - it again protected the ball, and at one point had just one turnover in a run of 26 offensive possessions. The 'Horns had just seven overall, a remarkably low number while being able to force double that amount at 14.
The second half never got much better as West Virginia failed to cut off Isaiah Taylor in transition, routinely allowing open lanes for the guard to attack after snapping the pressure. Taylor finished a game-high 23 points, including 13-of-13 from the line, with seven assists. And though Taylor and point guard Jevan Felix, who has been kryptonite to both West and Press Virginia over four seasons, are solid players, they've seemingly performed well above the norm in the series against the Mountaineers.
Texas bested WVU at the line by 12 points, and, even more revealing, actually outscored WVU in points off turnovers for the second straight game. Frankly, only a late 10-0 run made the game appear closer than it really was, as West Virginia trailed 75-59 with 3:44 remaining. It was, by all accounts, a tough loss if not a bad one. The Longhorns have progressed more than any other Big 12 team this season, and now sit at 17-9 overall and 8-5 in the conference, good for fourth in a league which is projected to get six of 10 teams into the NCAA Tournament.
West Virginia? It falls to 20-6, 9-4, and into second place behind No. 2 Kansas (22-4, 10-3), which appears primed to take its 12th straight Big 12 regular season title. If it seems a bit early for such talk, consider that WVU must overcome the one-game deficit over the final five simply to tie, and expecting KU to lose a couple games is to assume much. WVU hosts No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday at 4 p.m.
"Jaysean is of course saying he is going to play," Huggins said. "If there's any way possible, Jaysean will play. We left Dax back to get treatment. It would have done him no good to fly on the plane. I worry about Jaysean (swelling) up on the plane. If there's any way humanely possible, Dax will play."