Facing yet another must-win situation, the Texas Longhorns likely solidified their NCAA Tournament bid on Saturday afternoon, grinding out an 87-79 overtime win over the No. 20 West Virginia Mountaineers.
To do so, Texas had to match the Mountaineers without Mohamed Bamba, as he continues working through a toe injury, Eric Davis Jr., who’s ineligible due to an FBI investigation, and of course, Andrew Jones as he battles leukemia. And in doing so, Texas closed the regular season on a high note, notching its fifth win of the season over a ranked team with the latest boosting the Longhorns’ NCAA Tournament odds to 98 percent, per ESPN’s BPI.
Texas entered the afternoon in desperation mode, and that was evident throughout against a West Virginia team that throttled the ‘Horns by 35 in Morgantown.
In what became a back-and-forth affair from start until the final minutes of overtime, Texas didn’t capture its first lead until a Kerwin Roach II three found the net nearly halfway through the first half. It was a sign of things to come for Texas, which found its rhythm offensively sinking 7-13 first-half three-point attempts and shooting 60.9 percent from the field entering intermission, despite turning the ball over 10 times.
However, aided by just three first-half turnovers of its own and 26 points form Lamonte West, Sagaba Konate and Teddy Allen, West Virginia entered the break with a narrow 42-40 lead.
Exiting intermission, the Longhorns protected the ball better. Though the effort was there, the Longhorns seemingly left their offense in the locker room. A trio of offensive rebounds within the first 1:58 of the second half netted Texas just two points, and the ‘Horns didn’t add to that effort until a Dylan Osetkowski three trimmed West Virginia’s lead to 48-45.
It was the spark Texas needed, as it led to what became a 15-2 turn that placed the ‘Horns ahead 57-50 midway throughout the second half.
From that point on, Texas was hitting on all cylinders, finding its fair share of offensive success, holding its own defensively and controlling, the defensive glass at key moments.
Unsurprisingly, the Mountaineers made runs of their own, just as they did over the next two-minute stretch to tie the game at 57. Texas’ ability to not only limit those runs, but answer them proved to be the difference down the stretch.
Within minutes of West Virginia tying the game, a pair of Jericho Sims free throws capped a 6-0 run for Texas, and as the next several minutes became a back-and-forth slugfest, the ‘Horns consistently found ways to answer — between the 2:40 and 1:37 mark, Texas and West Virginia changed leads four times. However, after a Matt Coleman jumper capped the quick exchanges with 1:37 left, the 71-70 lead for Texas held firm until just six seconds remained, as Sims fought for the rebound after Osetkowski rejected Konate at the rim.
With Sims only able to convert 1-2 from the charity stripe, though, West Virginia was provided with one more opportunity, and it capitalized.
Coming out of the timeout, Jevon Carter broke free and went coast-to-coast for a clutch reverse layup to tie the game at 72 with just 1.8 seconds remaining. Jacob Young was given one final heave, but it clanked off the rim, adding five extra minutes to the clock.
The extra time was virtually all Texas, though.
Carter cashed in with a layup off the overtime-opening tip to take a 74-72 lead with 4:58 left, but from that point, a Coleman free throw, a pair of threes from Coleman and Young, a Sims dunk off of a Coleman assist, and then a Coleman layup capped an 11-0 Texas run to give the ‘Horns an 83-74 lead with 1:56 remaining. West Virginia did find the bottom of the net two more times, but courtesy of four made free throws down the stretch, Texas dribbled out the final seconds and enjoyed quite arguably its most significant win of the year.
- In Bamba’s absence, Sims put forth a career effort, notching a career-high 17 points and eight rebounds, with many of those coming in key moments. Not to mention, he earned himself a trip to SportCenter’s Top 10 plays of the day with a monstrous dunk on Konate to open the action:
Sure looks like Jericho Sims came to play today. #HookEm pic.twitter.com/1x0cQPWZud— Michael Shapiro (@mshap2) March 3, 2018
- Coleman and Roach each added 22 points of their own, with Roach sinking eight free throws and dishing out eight assists, and Coleman connecting on 9-14 field goals.
- Osetkowski totaled 15 points on a highly-efficient 5-7 from the perimeter, along with eight rebounds.
- Young and James Banks provided valuable minutes off the bench, with Young scoring eight points, including a clutch three-pointer down the stretch. Banks totaled three points and five rebounds.
- West Virginia enjoyed a balanced offensive effort, as West (15), Konate (14), Carter (12), Ahmad (10) and James Bolden (10) each scoring in double figures, but as a team, the Mountaineers shot just 7-26 (26.9%) from three and 31-74 (41.9%) from the field.