Tonight, the Texas Longhorns picked up a pretty significant win. Road wins against highly-rated opponents are never easy, and are looked at favorably by the NCAA tournament selection committee.
And tonight's win was not easy, as the Longhorns and West Virginia Mountaineers played a disjointed and foul-plagued game on Wednesday night in Morgantown. But more on that in a minute.
Javan Felix led all scorers with 17 points, as Shaka Smart's team took care of the ball and won 56-49.
Things got off to a rocky start as the Texas bus had a hard time getting to the arena in snow induced traffic. And then the game started -- and rocky doesn't really describe how it went.
This game had all the fouls. All of them. We sometimes talk about players adjusting to the officials in a game, but adjustments simply weren't possible in a game when any sort of contact, no matter how incidental or unrelated to play, drew an immediate whistle.
The result was a game that saw a combined 42 personal fouls, or slightly more than one foul per minute. Each team fouled 21 times, but the fouls worked out better for the Longhorns. Shaka Smart's men went 18-30 from the stripe, while Bob Huggins' squad was 8-23 on free throws. Strange basketball has the potential to benefit the underdog by pushing the contest in a direction that levels things, and tonight it certainly did.
The feared pressure defense of West Virginia ended up not being much of a factor in this game. The Longhorns handled the press with little stress for most of the game, and only turned the ball over 8 times. That is a remarkable outcome.
Javan Felix was easily the star of the night for Texas. He and Isaiah Taylor worked together to systematically break the Mountaineer pressure. Felix had one turnover, and Taylor had none -- as much as anything this probably accounts for why Texas won with apparent ease. And Felix covered for Taylor's quiet night scoring the ball, with a highly efficient 17 points, which included the final nine Longhorn points that put the game on ice.
The Mountaineers kept themselves in the game by going to the offensive glass. Rebounding was a big problem for Texas, as WVU tracked down a staggering 24 offensive rebounds. Jonathan Holton individually grabbed eight offensive rebounds, which was two more than Texas' team offensive rebounding total.
- If someone was new to basketball, this would not be the game I would use to introduce them to the sport. With a foul happening pretty much every other trip down the floor and a combined field goal percentage of 34 percent, this was not a pretty game.
- Pretty doesn't matter when it comes to NCAA tournament selection. Tonight, Texas picked up a road win against a team that will end the season with a high RPI ranking. If you are focused on the bottom line, that is all that should matter. There are no style points needed when you pick up a road win against a top opponent.
- While the Mountaineers shot the ball poorly, this was also one of the Longhorn's better defensive performances. West Virginia's two most important offensive players -- Devin Williams and Jaysean Paige -- were held in check. With a couple of exceptions, Prince Ibeh did an outstanding job on Williams, forcing the likely All-Conference forward to settle for jump shots. Meanwhile Paige was 2-12 from the floor, and didn't earn a single trip to the free throw line.
- This game probably doesn't tell us all that much about Texas, but that is OK -- not every game has to be a referendum on a team. It was an oddly officiated game, in many ways resembling the Longhorn's season opener in China. But the difference between this game and that one is that Texas did the things it needed to do to win.
- A bit better rebounding for the Longhorns, and Texas would have won this one easily. Of course, the other side of that is that if West Virginia was less awful from the free throw line, this game would have been closer.
- Prince Ibeh dunked an Isaiah Taylor lob pass with his wrist. It was different.