After last week's two-game road skid dropped Texas to 16-9 on the season, the Longhorns returned home Tuesday night to host No. 10 West Virginia and earned their first sweep of the season with a 85-78 victory over the Mountaineers.
The collectively well-rounded win came by way of several noteworthy efforts from the Longhorns. Eric Davis Jr. arguably played the largest role in Texas taking control near the end of the first half, and ultimately cruising to a victory after a personal 14-point scoring burst to end the half, including hitting 4-4 from deep. That streaky stretch led a 24-12 run to end the first half to give Texas a 45-36 lead. Davis finished with 15 points -- all came in the first half. Isaiah Taylor also played tremendously well, adding a team-high 23 points, including a perfect 13-13 from the charity stripe, along with seven assists. Despite the three turnovers -- one came on a five-second inbounds call -- Taylor continuously broke West Virginia's relentless press with relative ease, and the result was several layups and wide open dishes to the perimeter. Javan Felix and Tevin Mack also reached double digits in the scoring column, scoring 11 and 10, respectively. Connor Lammert seemed to re-discover his confidence, knocking down 3-6 from the perimeter after adding only five points on 1-11 field goals (1-10 from deep) in Texas' two losses last week.
While the defensive efforts won't show up in the stat sheet, Prince Ibeh defended the rim with his life -- when he wasn't pinned to the bench in foul trouble, of course -- rejecting six shots and altering several more. If it weren't for the early technical foul after a rim-rattling dunk and a few questionable calls, Ibeh might have reached the double-digit rejection mark.
You come into Prince Ibeh’s palace, you get swatted.— ESPN (@espn) February 17, 2016
Volleyball style: https://t.co/QeOQijaDh6
Kerwin Roach Jr., Demarcus Holland, and Kendal Yancy all played solid defense, as well, and added 13 points, collectively.
West Virginia entered Austin without Daxter Miles Jr. -- the team's third-leading scoring (10.1). Jaysean Paige, WVU's leading scorer (14.0) never really got an opportunity to impact the game after spraining his ankle in the first half; he returned momentarily with virtually no impact on the game. Tarik Phillips led the way for the Mountaineers with 19 points on 6-11 from the field, including 3-5 from the perimeter. With Ibeh in foul trouble, Devin Williams was able to have his way down low to the tune of 18 points on 9-11 from the field, along with 12 boards. Jonathan Holton added 10 points and eight boards.
Outside of the concerning start to the game, in which Texas turned the ball over three times in short order and fell behind 12-4, it was a considerably impressive performance. Once Shaka Smart called an early timeout, whatever he said worked: Texas only turned the ball over four more times to finish the game with seven -- West Virginia leads the nation in turnovers forced with 19.08 per game -- while doubling that effort and forcing 14 West Virginia turnovers. The Horns' hit 10 of their 22 looks from deep, and most notably, converted 25-30 free throws, including 10-10 down the stretch when the Mountaineers made a last-second push to pull the game within six. Free throws were a big concern for Texas in the beginning of the season, so this may be another sign of this team growing up at the right time with March Madness just around the corner.
Texas' victory over West Virginia now gives the Longhorns yet another resume-building win, with three victories over top-10 opponents and five ranked wins overall. Texas is now 13-1 at home and will get a chance to add another top-25 victory and extend its home record to 14-1 when Baylor comes to town Saturday -- another opportunity for Texas to sweep a Big 12 foe. Texas has now improved to 17-9 on the season, and its 8-5 Big 12 record is good for fourth in conference play.