Texas Basketball Falls Short at West Virginia, 60-58

Justin K. Aller

In an all too familiar storyline, the Longhorns battled back from an 11-point second half deficit but couldn't score down the stretch and fell to 2-7 in Big 12 play.

Alright, let's see... what do I need to do tomorrow? In the morning I've got an 8 AM meeting with Chuck to review the deferred compensation plan. I still need to finish my memo on the propriety of investing in real estate operating companies with IRA assets. Lunch? Do I have lunch plans? Yes, almost forgot: I'm having lunch with Stephanie at Manuel's tomorrow.

As for the afternoon, I've got that 2:00 conference call with...

Wait, hello? Is somebody reading this? Oh crap -- sorry about that. What are you doing in here? I was positive no one was actually going to read this. Wow. Okay... well... forget my to-do list then. Um, let's talk about the game?

Yeah, there was a game. If you watched Texas' 60-58 loss at West Virginia on Monday night and/or you're reading this, you're a brave and principled fan. That's a kind way of saying that you're a glutton for punishment, but I salute you nonetheless.

After last night, the two losses to West Virginia capture the entire frustrating season for this young team and UT basketball fans: opportunities to win despite abominable shooting and turnovers galore, but in the end just another narrow loss. In the first meeting in Austin, Texas shot 11 of 25 from the free throw line and coughed up a 10-point lead with three minutes to play in an overtime loss, and last night they bricked their way to a two-point defeat by making just 21 of their 60 field goal attempts for the game, a paltry 35%.

In case you were lucky enough to miss it and are wondering: nope, the preceding is not a typo -- we really did lose an overtime game at home by shooting just 11-for-25 from the free throw line. This team has shown incredible creativity and persistence in finding new and amazing ways to lose tight games.

The one common theme among them is the festival of bricks, of which each loss has been a full-fledged celebration. With even average shooting this team would be comfortably over .500 and competing for an NCAA Tournament berth, but this is a team that lost in the final possession to UCLA after missing not one but two uncontested, no-one-within-ten-feet, lay ups. If there's one thing this team does, and does well, it's clank iron.

Bricks were the culprit on Monday night as well, joined by their favorite dance partner Excessive Turnovers (15), which is how Texas was able to grab an offensive rebound on 17 of its 39 missed shots, but managed just 58 points across 66 possessions. They can't shoot threes (30% on the year), they can't make free throws (64%), they turn it over far too much (23% of possessions), and they're only average on the offensive glass and getting to the line. Add it all up and that's how you wind up with a true shooting percentage south of 48% and the 290th ranked offense in terms of adjusted efficiency. And when you look at it that way, it's something of a miracle that there haven't been more games like the rout in Manhattan.

As has been the case throughout the season, against West Virginia the team played hard, competed like hell for a win, and featured some bright spots and encouraging signs for this group of players down the road. And I was very glad to hear Rick Barnes say this after tonight's game:

I know we are a young group of guys, but tonight I thought it was the first time, from an internal mindset, that we were a team, and I'm really proud of the way our guys stayed together. I thought the bench was great, we fought through some things, we got down and showed some fight. Tonight might have been a big step for us, in terms of being a team, a real team from the inside out.

He's been pushing this group hard -- for the better, in my view -- but I'm glad to see him pull back and praise these guys for fighting. You can't win 'em all, but if nothing else this group tried like hell to win 'em all, and in the long run they'll be better for it. Nothing has gone right for these kids this year and no one would have blamed them (not many would have even noticed) if they'd folded it up, but they've steadfastly refused to give up, continuing to battle their hardest for wins, even as the losses have mounted.

As much as I'd love for them to be rewarded for that with a happy ending, at 10-12 overall and 2-7 in the Big 12 -- and particularly following the unfortunate loss of Jonathan Holmes -- not even a spectacular return by Myck Kabongo next week is likely to be enough to dig this team out from the hole it's in.

I'll root for it anyway. And if you're reading this, I'd guess you'll be doing so too.

Hook 'em? Always: Hook 'em

Next: Home versus Oklahoma State, Saturday 2/09, 12:45 pm (Big 12 Network)

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