Oh So Close

West Virginia missed a golden chance to knock off number two Texas when it missed the front ends of three consecutive one and one situations late in the game, allowing the Longhorns to escape with a 76-75 win.

Leading 75-72, WVU failed to convert on the trio of chances after making eight of their first nine during the game. Joe Herber missed the first opportunity, and Kevin Pittsnogle couldn't knock down either of his chances with under a minute to go after twice being fouled intentionally following Texas scores. The Longhorns took advantage of the misfires, scoring twice off offensive rebounds, the second with 3.9 seconds to go.

Trailing by one point, WVU negotiated the length of the court on two nifty passes, with Joe Herber finding Mike Gansey under the hoop with less than a second to go. Gansey was hit by LaMarcus Aldridge on his shot attempt, but Aldridge also blocked Gansey's shot, and the officials didn't see fit to call a foul on the play, which ended with Texas grabbing the ball as the clock ran out.

Despite the misfires, the Mountaineers certainly proved they belong on the court with the nation's elite, and that last year's steallar play was certainly no fluke. WVU again patiently executed its cutting, screening offense for layups and frustrated the high-scoring Longhorns with a mixture of 1-3-1 and man-to-man looks that forced 24 turnovers.

Texas, as expected, dominated the backboards, snaring 11 offensive rebounds and 41 overall. The majority of UT's points down the stretch came in the lane, where WVU struggled to match up with the bigger, stronger burnt orange front line. The Texas trio shot 21-32 from the field and pulled down 34 rebounds on the evening. No Mountaineer had more than four.

"That's going to happen, not often, but it happened tonight," head coach John Beilein said philosophically of the three consecutive misses. "Our kids are hurting right now. It will be important to see how we pick it back up."

For most of the game, WVU was able to do just that. The Mountaineers kept their poise in the face of a 13-0 Texas run, responding with a 7-0 burst of their own in the second half to set up the back and forth finish. Playing against a more physically talented squad, WVU protected the ball well and rarely struggled to get a good look at the basket.

"We played against a high pressure team and had 11 turnovers. That's pretty good," Beilein said. "It's tough to beat a team that gets those kind of putbacks. It's hard for us to defend against offensive rebounds. There's not much we can do about that."

There also wasn't much WVU could do about the unconscious shooting of Texas point guard Daniel Gibson, who came into the game shooting a union-certified 20% from the field, including 2-11 from long range. Gibson hit five threes in the first half to keep the Longhorns in the game, finishing with a team high 20.

WVU was paced by Mike Gansey, who whirled to the hoop and converted several transition chances to finish with a game high 28. Joe Herber was the only other Mountaineer in double figures with 16.

West Virginia was able to stay in the game all the way without capitalizing on its main strength -- three point shooting. The Mountaineers hit just nine of their 23 attempts, besting Texas by just one in that category. However, it took all of Texas dominance inside, plus those uncharacteristic misses at the end of the game, for the number two team in the country to come away with the win.

"They did a good job limiting Kevin's touches outside the arc - not many teams can do that," said Beilein of the Longhorns' defensive strategy.

West Virginia made up for their shooting woes with cagey defense, as they recorded 13 steals against the Texas offense while yielding just six in return. The Mountaineers were able to turn several of those turnovers into fast break points as they raced out to a ten-point lead early in the second half, but at that point UT began emphasizing its inside game, which put them in position to win down the stretch.

WVU faces Kentucky at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday in Kansas City.

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