West Virginia's Execution, Defense Enough Down The Stretch To Secure Quarterfinal Win Over Texas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Texas was making the latest of its runs, challenging West Virginia and trying to avoid the end of its season.

But with the game on the line, the Mountaineers turned to their floor general, and took to heart his advice about running offense. No more standing around, stagnation, or merely running through the sets without creating creases and challenging the rim as needed. Instead, ahead just 50-46 with 8:30 left against the bottom seed in the tournament, Carter employed his team to do more with the motion sets than just run through them.

WVU, as a whole, listened, immediately getting the ball to a cutting Teyvon Myers who was fouled going at the bucket. Myers hit both of the resulting free throws, and the lead was six. A defensive stop on the other end via two missed shots and two more missed free throws - talk about an empty trip for Texas - segued into a defensive rebound by Carter and, 20 seconds of offense later, a jumper from Elijah Macon for a 54-46 lead with 6:46 left. And then came the biggest play of the tussle thus far, Nathan Adrian's strip-and-steal of UT's Kendal Yancy and the resulting kick out to a wide open Carter at the top of the key. The ball swished cleanly through, pushing West Virginia's advantage back to double digits at 57-46, and the Longhorns never got closer than eight points afterward.

Perhaps this ball movement and passing deal has something to it, especially when Texas head coach Shaka Smart turned to his bag of tricks and went to a full court press in an effort to turn the Mountaineers over and limit WVU's time on the offensive end.

"It got tough. They were making a run," WVU guard Tarik Phillip said. "They made a run (the previous night) to pull out the win. They started pressing, so it slowed us down. We got into offense kinda late. But as you said, JC said 'run offense' and we started to run offense and sewed it up. We should be able to handle the press, because we press each other all the time."

That they did, if somewhat tentatively at times. Combine the above with WVU's ability to limit Texas without a field goal over the final 5:34, and the Mountaineers had just enough execution and ability on an off night to avoid the upset in securing a 63-53 win to sweep the three-game season series.

"We knew we had to buckle down and guard the ball, said Phillip, who finished with seven points and four assists against one turnover. "That's what we did. It was about rebound the basketball, rebound at the offensive end. Make sure they get one shot. The main thing was not to let them get run-outs, numbers."

West Virginia itself floundered late, not recording a field goal during the final 4:20. But the brief interlude of actually running offense, combined with Carter's big shot and the ability to hold the Longhorns to just two points over the last 5:34 of game time proved enough to move on to the second Big 12 Championship semifinal in as many seasons. 

"We're trying to win," head coach Bob Huggins said. "We didn't get it done in the finals a year ago and there's just no sense in playing if you're not playing to win. So we're trying to win."

Simple enough. And they did, using a trademark of March - overcoming even the most mediocre of performances - to emerge with a victory.


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