The Mountaineers bested Texas in nearly every category in a win as lopsided as the final 77-62 score indicated. There was the trademark pressure defense, the ability to operate in the half court and solid rebounding. Fantastic interior defense, excellent outside shooting from a handful of players and the ability to wear out the Longhorns with a lengthy bench. The full arsenal was on display, and it provided a rare sense or relief for a group that found a way to turn the majority of recent contests into incredibly tight affairs.
Part of it, to be sure, was the lackluster play and execution of Texas. The Longhorns had a 12-2 lead and offered the initial punch of the game before West Virginia beat them to it the rest of the contest. The Mountaineers quickly reversed fortunes, piecing together a 15-0 run that was part of an overall 29-8 push to turn the 10-point deficit into a 31-20 lead with 7:29 left. There was little the Mountaineers couldn't do during the run, which saw Lamont West hit four of his game-high six three-pointers, while Jevon Carter scored nine of his game-best 24 points points in being as offensive efficient as he has all season.
"Slow start," Carter said. "We have to stop doing that. We got a lot from our bench players. They came in and did what they had to do and gave us that spark. It's what we do. We play hard and you come in and give your effort and do what you do."
Which happened across the board. Sags Konate showcased why he remains among the premiere rim protectors in the game, finishing with a block and steal while continually altering UT drives and interior chances. Elijah Macon continued to build upon the momentum built off several quality performances of late, finishing with 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting from the floor. Nate Adrian was his prototypical dependable self. Even Maciej Bender managed four rebounds, three assists and a stellar block against the 'Horns.
Seemingly every rebound, bounce of the ball, deflection and 50-50 chance went West Virginia's way, which was both a positive and long overdue after late collapses against Kansas and Texas Tech within the last week alone. The No. 12 Mountaineers (22-6, 10-5) had advantages in shooting, free throw percentage, overall and offensive rebounds, assists, turnovers forced, steals and more. Even better, and more importantly, they outscored Texas in both halves, 46-32 in the first and 31-30 in the second. Once it went ahead by 20 points with 9:33 left, it never allowed UT to get within single digits again in a finish-them-off example. In fact, other than a brief lull early and then around the five-minute mark of the latter period, WVU controlled from start to finish in a needed performance that seems of now, to cement this team's mindset that it can put former psychological hurdles behind it.
"It was good," said Carter in understating the matter. "We just did what we had to do. For real, we didn't let them come back like we normally do. We stayed on the attack more. Normally, when the game gets late and teams start chucking up threes, they were making them. Tonight, they missed. Tried to stop their bigs, take them out of things, make them play fast, turn the over and rebound it. Be on the glass."
All those areas were satisfactory to well above average in this one, which is promising even coming against a Texas team that fell to just 10-18 overall, 4-11 in the Big 12. It was, among all things, a singularly refreshing experience to watch West Virginia put together nearly a full 40 minutes. And for the stretches it didn't, the worst came early rather than late, when there was time for adjustments and recovery. As a result, the win registers the first season series sweep in Big 12 play for WVU, which had won just two of its last eight against Texas entering.
"Yeah a little bit," Carter said of whether West Virginia had showcased itself to have difficulty playing with leads. "We just stay on the attack, that's what we have to start doing. We get a lead, we let up, and we have to stop doing that. We feel like every night we had been in the same position. Get a little lead and start letting them come back. Tonight we held on to it."
Which is an important confidence and morale booster for a team which has now won seven of its last nine after losing three of six in one stretch. It appears, with four days now to prepare for another quick two-game set at TCU and No. 9 Baylor, that the Mountaineers might be hitting a stride as they head towards the postseason. For a sport that decides team success in March, regaining that footing is imperative.