Despite a stagnant start offensively, the Horns found some offense thanks to some sharp and willing passing and transition opportunities triggered by a stifling defense. Getting contributions from just about everybody, Texas broke open a lead midway through the first half and never looked back.
46-14 points in the paint, advantage Texas.
42-26 rebounds, advantage Texas.
57.9% shooting vs. 39.7% shooting, advantage Texas.
If this is the formula Texas will put together to make a Big 12 and NCAA tournament run, then it looks pretty good. The effort started on the defensive end, where the Texas backcourt really pressured the dynamic West Virginia guard duo of Eron Harris and Juwan Staten, taking both out of rhythm and keeping the West Virginia offense out of the game. Trusting the frontcourt to clean up any penetration allowed (Ridley finished with a loud 3 blocks that should have been more if not for some questionable foul calls), the Texas guards played with tons of energy and activity on the perimeter. Though it did manifest in some silly fouls on jump shooters (a big portion of Eron Harris's 10 free throw attempts on the night), the strategy was incredibly successful: Harris did finish with 21 points on 5 of 15 shooting, making a few tough contested jumpers, and getting 9 of 10 from the free throw line; and star Juwan Staten had a quiet 14 points and 7 assists on 6-16 shooting, being kept out of the game while it was still in question before adding some buckets down the stretch. Great defensive effort from the Horns.
On the offensive end, crisp passing and a concerted effort to get the ball inside chewed apart West Virginia's zone defenses, en route to a 33-57 (57.9%) shooting effort with 18 assisted baskets, and a token 4-13 from three. Only two Horns finished under 50% shooting on the night. While the offense dipped late into the shot lock often in the early stretches, forcing some desperate heaves from Javan Felix, the pace and passing picked up later to create some easy opportunities inside. It isn't too difficult to shoot nearly 60% from the field when you get nearly half your point production from inside the paint.
Each Horn starter scored in double figures. Javan Felix led the way with 18, but needed 7-16 from the field to get it (he did manage 4-10 from three, which we'll take any week). Cam Ridley followed with 17 points and 6 boards on 6-8 shooting, but struggled a bit from the FT line at 5-10. Isaiah Taylor added a hyper efficient 14 points on 4-6 shooting and 6-6 from the line (good things will happen when your point guard is consistent money from the free throw line). Demarcus Holland added a surprising 11 points on 5-9 shooting, with 7 assists (including some textbook post entry passes) and 5 rebounds, but had 4 pretty ugly turnovers on the night. And a big welcome back to Jonathan Holmes. It wasn't a demonstrative return, but his 11 points on 4-6 shooting and team high 7 rebounds was the efficiency the team needs when he's on the floor.
And a well deserved shoutout to the Texas bench, that maintained the defensive effort and efficient offense the starters paced when they were on the floor. Martez Walker was quiet from deep, missing both of his 3 point attempts, but highlighted Todd Wright's training efforts posting 6 points and 7 rebounds, showcasing some impressive leaping ability that wasn't present when he arrived in Austin. Bigs Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert chipped in a combined 8 points and 11 boards, with Ibeh's trademark clean up dunks around the rim and some shocking smoothness on the floor from the typically vanilla Lammert.
Overall, the effort was a display of everything that is right with this team this year: they're unselfish, play with tons of energy, have taken on their coach's defensive mindset, and are fearless in attacking defenses at the rim. And now at 20-5, 9-3 in the Big 12, the results are speaking for themselves. Its an effort that I'd love to see replicated on the road with huge games @ ISU and @ KU this week. For now, Hook 'em, and keep fighting, not-so-young-anymore Horns.