With games looming against the No. 10 Baylor Bears and the No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks to close out the regular season, the No. 20 Texas Longhorns travel to Morgantown on Saturday to face the West Virginia Mountaineers.
The Longhorns will have to overcome a sellout crowd at the WVU Coliseum as head coach Chris Beard’s team attempts to improve on its 3-6 road record, but West Virginia has struggled this season in Big 12 play. After starting the year 13-2, the Mountaineers have lost five in a row and 12 of their last 13 games.
Tuesday’s defeat by Iowa State was particularly emblematic of the issues for West Virginia this season. Despite scoring 81 points, the Mountaineers lost after blowing a one-point lead with less than 25 seconds remaining. Passing into a corner against a trap by the Cyclones ultimately didn’t result in a turnover as the Mountaineers called timeout, but disaster did strike on the ensuing inbounds pass when guard Taz Sherman, West Virginia’s best player, had his inbounds pass stolen and turned into the go-ahead basket by Iowa State’s Izaiah Brockington.
West Virginia lost 84-81 after missing three shots to take the lead or tie the game.
“We’ve got the ball with (22 seconds) left and the lead, so you’re supposed to put the game away,” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. “We didn’t line up in the right place and it’s hard to run what you want to run when they do that. And it wasn’t one guy, it was a bunch of guys.”
Texas open the near year and Big 12 play with a 74-59 win over an undermanned West Virginia team that was without Sherman, Gabe Osabuohien, and Kobe Johnson because of health and safety protocols. The Longhorns left little doubt of the outcome by taking a 39-20 halftime lead and Huggins believes that the team has improved since then.
“They’re a lot more cohesive now and playing together for this amount of time you’re going to get that way,” Huggins said.
Senior guard Andrew Jones in particular is playing the best basketball of his college career, topping the 20-point mark in three straight games for the first time. During the current three-game stretch, Jones is averaging 20.3 points per game while playing 37.9 minutes per game, converting 45.7 percent from the floor (21-46), including 42.1 percent from beyond the arc (8-19), and 11-of-14 at the free-throw line (.786).
“I feel like we’re getting better each with each game and each outing,” Jones said after Wednesday’s comeback win over TCU. “We’re learning from every mistake, every loss. So as long as we learn and don’t make the same mistake twice, and try to be at our best each game, I feel like we’re on a trajectory to doing really big things because we’re so versatile, as far as how hard we compete and the depth that we have on this team, regardless of who’s here and who’s not. I feel like if we just continue to lock in. I think we’re gonna be really good down the stretch.”
Texas has a 61-percent win probability on Saturday with a projected final score of 66-63, according to KenPom.com.
How to Watch:
Time: 1:00 p.m. Central
Radio: Texassports.com affiliates
Odds: The Longhorns are 3.5-point favorites over the Mountaineers, according to DraftKings.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.