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No. 25 Texas suffers bad loss at West Virginia, 76-73

An up-and-down start to Big 12 play hits what needs to be a low point.

NCAA Basketball: Texas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Entering conference season without any true resume-boosting wins, the No. 25 Texas Longhorns suffered the worst defeat of the season on Saturday at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown in a 76-73 loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers.

After bouncing back from a slightly more excusable loss to Texas Tech last Saturday, Texas went on the road and out-fought Cincinnati thanks to a game-winning basket from senior guard Max Abmas, who couldn’t rescue the Longhorns against the Mountaineers despite scoring a game-high and season-high 32 points in carrying a heavy playmaking load in 37 minutes. Abmas was 9-of-17 shooting overall, including 7-of-13 shooting from three, adding 7-of-8 attempts from the free-throw line. But Abmas also turned the ball over five times compared to two assists in a sloppy performance by the Longhorns.

For the game, Texas gave the ball away 22 times, a turnover rate of 30.6 percent, and while West Virginia didn’t exactly capitalize frequently on those giveaways, scoring 15 points off turnovers helped negate greater opportunism by the Longhorns. In addition to the five turnovers by Abmas, senior forward Dylan Disu turned it over five times, junior guard Tyrese Hunter had four turnovers, and junior forward Ze’Rik Onyema had three turnovers in only 13 minutes, 44 percent of his possessions. The overall performance by Hunter was particularly poor — he gave up the ball up on 39 percent of his possessions, scoring just four points on 2-of-6 shooting with one assist.

Like a handful of Texas players, Disu was limited by foul trouble, committing his fifth foul with 2:16 remaining as the Longhorns tried to mount a comeback from a 63-59 deficit. Disu finished with 18 points, the only Texas player other than Abmas to score in double digits in another unbalanced performance.

Among those failing to contribute, senior forward Brock Cunningham also fouled out, getting whistled for his fifth foul with 3:20 left in the game after scoring two points in 30 minutes. Over the last five games, Cunningham has scored nine points while committing 19 fouls, disqualifying himself from both losses in conference play.

In a concerning trend of struggling to play defense without fouling, the Longhorns were called for 28 fouls compared to only 15 for the Mountaineers, leading to a 41-21 advantage in free-throw attempts for the home team, which finished the game plus-11 at the line. Of those 41 free-throw attempts for WVU, 33 came in the second half, a whistle fest that saw Texas called for 20 fouls.

Beyond the team-wide commitment to committing fouls, Texas once again received too little from too many players — Abmas and Disu combined to score 50 of the 73 points for the Longhorns as Hunter and Cunningham provided six total points and senior forward Kadin Shedrick and senior guard IT Horton both went scoreless. Shedrick only played four minutes while continuing to deal with the back spasms that kept him out of the win over Cincinnati. Horton doesn’t have an excuse for playing 17 minutes without scoring, missing all three of his shots and failing to record another offensive statistic beyond turning the ball over once.

In a sign of how poorly Texas shared the basketball, the Horns recorded only seven assists on 24 field goals while getting 23 points over 136 minutes from everyone not named Abmas or Disu.

Several stretches featured abysmal offense by Texas, including a critical period of more than three minutes in the second half as West Virginia went on a 7-0 run after a layup by Disu had cut the margin to 52-48. Abmas did his best to give the Longhorns a chance to win down the stretch, scoring eight straight points for Texas — and the final 11 overall — reducing the deficit to 68-65 with 1:08 remaining, but West Virginia was able to get into the paint to produce a dunk by Akok Akok with 45 seconds left and that effectively ended the game, sending the Longhorns tumbling nine spots in KenPom.com’s adjusted efficiency rankings.

Texas tries to get back on track with a return to the Moody Center on Wednesday to face UCF, which upset Kansas at home last Wednesday.