Coming into this game without the services of Daxter Miles Jr., who injured his hamstring against TCU, things got worse for West Virginia tonight when senior guard Jaysean Paige injured his right ankle in the first half against Texas.
Paige missed the rest of the first half, and wasn’t able to put much weight on his right ankle at all when he tested it out in the second half. He was subbed out with 13:33 remaining, and spent the rest of the game on the bench with his ankle wrapped in ice. Paige finished the game with zero points in six minutes of action.
Head coach Bob Huggins said on IMG's Northside Automotive Postgame Report he hadn’t had a chance to talk with the team doctor about Paige’s prospects for playing against Oklahoma this weekend, but that he had talked to the player himself.
“Jaysean is of course saying he’s going to play. Jaysean tried to play in the second half. If there is any way possible, Jaysean is going to play,” Huggins said.
With West Virginia down two ball handlers, Texas head coach Shaka Smart and the Longhorns leaned on the press to exploit WVU’s lack of guards. The result was a big advantage for Texas in the turnover department, 14-7 to be exact, which helped the Longhorns down the Mountaineers for the second time this season.
West Virginia jumped out to a 16-8 lead in this game, but Texas turned things around with some dead-eye shooting from beyond the arc. The Longhorns converted on 7-of-12 first half 3-pointers, which turned an early deficit into a 45-36 halftime advantage.
“We can’t play the way we’ve been playing without enough people and we didn’t have enough people on the perimeter,” Huggins said.
“We got tired and we gave penetration. It was penetrate and pitch. They penetrate, they suck you into help and then they pitch it. Then you get step in shots.”
Texas built a lead as big as 75-59 with 3:42 to play, but the Mountaineers wouldn’t go quietly into the night. WVU went on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to six points with just over a minute to play, but the Longhorns went 10-for-10 from the line in the minute to seal the deal.
On the other end, the Mountaineers’ season-long free throw struggle continued, as they made just 13-of-21 from the line. Huggins said the difference between these two teams was simple tonight.
“They made their free throws. You were hoping that they’d miss some free throws and they didn’t miss,” he said.
“We shot 61-pecent and they shot 83-percent. That’s what I told them in the locker room. I also told them it doesn’t take that much effort to go into the practice facility and shoot free throws.”
Junior guard Tarik Phillip stepped up with Paige limited, scoring 19 points off the bench, but it wasn’t enough to push West Virginia over the top.
In the post, junior forward Devin Williams added to his Big 12-leading double-double tally with his 12th of the season tonight. He finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Texas was paced by speedy point guard Isaiah Taylor, who was the game’s high scorer with 23 points. He also dished out seven assists and pulled down four rebounds.
With the loss, West Virginia drops to 20-6 overall and 9-4 in the Big 12. The Mountaineers now sit in second place in the conference below Kansas, while Texas improved to 17-9 overall and 8-5 in league play.