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Texas Longhorns fall to No. 10 ranked West Virginia, 74-72

West Virginia’s Jevon Carter was too much for Texas down the stretch.

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The shorthanded Texas Longhorns lost to West Virginia 74-72. Jarrett Allen led all scorers with 19 points, while Teyvon Meyers, Jevon Carter, and Tarik Phillip scored 16, 15, and 14 points respectively for the Mountaineers.

The Texas Longhorns did enough to play a tight game against Bob Huggins tenth-ranked squad, playing tough defense on West Virginia, and making just enough plays to stay in the game late but not enough to take the lead. It was just not enough to get the win.

Jevon Carter had a lot to do with the Longhorn loss. The junior point guard for West Virginia took the game over late in the second half, getting to the basket and hitting tough shots off the bounce.

The Texas Longhorns had a chance to recapture the lead late in the game. Down 70-68 with under a minute remaining, the Longhorn defense forced a long three by the Mountaineers that missed badly. But Nathan Adrian came down with an offensive rebound and was fouled. He sank both free throws. It put WVU up by four, and forced the Longhorns to foul on the ensuing defensive possessions, needing to stop the clock.

Had the Longhorns come down with that rebound, perhaps things could have gone differently.

With Tevin Mack out of the lineup following a suspension, and Kendal Yancy still recovering from an ankle injury, the shorthanded Longhorns went with a starting lineup of Jacob Young, Eric Davis, Kerwin Roach, Jarrett Allen, and Shaq Cleare. Andrew Jones would sub into the game quickly, as Shaka Smart elected to let him watch the first few possessions from the bench before sending him into the fray.

Texas faced up to the West Virginia full-court pressure early in the game, getting off to an 8-7 lead, and holding the lead throughout much of the first half despite committing ten first half turnovers.

Jarrett Allen had an outstanding first half, scoring ten points, including going 6-6 from the free throw line, where he would finish the game 7-8. After struggling from the free throw line early in the season, Allen has started to knock down his shots. He came into this game 9-11 from the line through the first four games of the Big 12 season. Meanwhile Andrew Jones scored eight first half points, going 2-4 from three point range. Jones was able to find opportunities when Texas broke the West Virginia pressure.

The primary reason that the Longhorns fared so well early was because of defense. After some early fouls, the Texas defense settled in and made things difficult for the Mountaineers.

Shaka Smart mixed and matched defense in the first half, keeping the Mountaineers off balance. In particular, the Longhorns rolled out a match-up zone midway through the half that to my knowledge Texas has not deployed at all this season, and it seemed to confuse WVU.

But it was more than just mixing defenses that held down the Mountaineer offense. The Longhorns defended really well, which is a trait of this team that has been overlooked in a difficult year. This is a really good defensive team; if only it could score more consistently.

A late first half spurt by West Virginia would give the lead back to the Mountaineers. Bob Huggins’ team hit some contested shots, got out in transition, and went to the offensive glass to start to finally find some offense against the Texas D. At the same time, the Longhorns struggled to protect the ball. The result was a 12-0 run that would be stopped when Kerwin Roach hit a three at the end of the half to set the score at 39-34.

The Longhorns got off to a great start in the second half and reclaimed the lead. The run was sparked by an aggressive Andrew Jones, who finished the game with 17 points before fouling out late in the second half. Jones made plays attacking the rim in transition, and hit shots from the perimeter. Despite fouling out, it was his best game of the season against the toughest opponent Texas has faced all year.

Meanwhile, the Texas defense kept grinding. The Longhorns used their defense to create transition offense, and Texas would claim a five point lead that would hold through the middle part of the second half. This portion of the game included a nifty between-the-legs dribble by Longhorn big man Shaq Cleare, who lost his defender with the move and hit a short hook shot.

With around ten minutes remaining in the game, the Longhorns would suffer through several bad possessions, while Tarik Phillip started to go to work. West Virginia retook the lead with 9:28 remaining, drawing a Texas timeout. From there on it was a tight affair.

Despite some nice play late by Kerwin Roach, who on back to back possessions found Jacob Young in the corner for a three, and Jarrett Allen for a short jumper, the Longhorns could never get back in control of the game.

It was instead Jevon Carter who was in control. He hit another tough shot to put score at 68-65 with a little more than two minutes remaining, and followed up on the following position with a strong finish at the rim.

On the next trip down the floor, after the Texas offense floundered and took a bad shot Allen worked hard for the offensive rebound and drew a foul. He would make one free throw, setting the score at 70-68.

On the ensuing possession, Nathan Adrian would come down with his critical offensive rebound, and from this point forward the Mountaineers would make just enough free throws to hang on.

Game Notes

  • Graduate transfer Mareik Isom made his first appearance of the season for Texas. He played three minutes and missed his only shot (an open three in the corner).
  • The Texas Longhorns kept themselves in the game by limiting the normal ways that West Virginia beats opponents. While Texas did turn the ball over 19 times, things frankly could have been a lot worse. Earlier this week the Mountaineers turned Baylor over 29 times and ran the number one ranked Bears off the floor in Morgantown. And while Adrian made a big offensive rebound late to help seal the game, the Longhorns limited second chances for a West Virginia team that relies on these to score.
  • The Mountaineers did create something of a shot differential over Texas, but it wasn’t as large as usual. Because they turn teams over so often, get so many offensive rebounds, and generally take good care of the ball (the three reasons that Bob Huggins has won so many games over his career), WVU came into the game averaging 15 more FGAs and six more FTAs per game than their opponents. Today, the Mountaineers only took four more FGAs and nine more FTAs than Texas.
  • The Longhorns played outstanding defense. Even late in the game when Jevon Carter got things going, many of his made baskets were contested shots. Texas has been a really good defensive team this season, and held the nation’s fifth rated offense per kenpom.com to 1.03 points per possession.
  • Texas only scored 1.00 points per possession. When this team figures out how to score, it is going to be pretty good. But that may not happen until next season.

The Longhorns are next in action on Tuesday, when they head to Waco to face the Baylor Bears.