After watching No. 19 Texas sweep West Virginia Saturday in Austin, Texas, I noticed a recurring problem that can affect the Mountaineers for the remainder of their season.
While the Longhorns possess a size many teams in college basketball envy, WVU’s weakness was exposed in its interior.
Stopping the Texas’ big men was a difficult task for West Virginia. The Longhorns, for the second time this season against WVU, won the rebounding battle, 41-26. In the first meeting Jan. 13, the Longhorns won the boards once again, that time with a 49-30 advantage.
While Texas (20-5, 9-3 Big 12) was able to shoot 58 percent in the game and showcase its offense in a dominant fashion, the Longhorns’ big men were the real test for WVU all evening.
Sophomore Cameron Ridley, a 6-foot-9, 285-pound player from Houston, led the way for UT, as he contributed 17 points and was a defensive force with three of Texas’ five blocks.
While the Mountaineers simply had no answer for the consistent offensive prowess of Texas, the youth of the WVU basketball team showed when it tried to contain the big bodies inside the paint.
In fact, Texas outscored West Virginia 46-14 inside the paint. WVU’s inexperienced front line was displayed in a big way.
I’m not saying the Longhorns’ intimidating size is an easy match for any team in the country. Not many teams have what Texas does in terms of forwards and center. There’s no denying that.
What I am saying, however, is West Virginia’s lack of size and depth inside turned out to be its kryptonite. Its lack of size and physicality turned out to be the difference maker.
“They were the aggressor,” said West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins to WVUSports.com following the loss. “It’s hard for us when we don’t make shots, and we didn’t make shots when we had several very good looks.”
WVU was simply outmatched against Texas. In terms of having big men who could keep up with Ridley and 6-foot-8, 240-pound junior forward Jonathan Holmes, it wasn’t the case.
Blame it on young players if you will. That won’t change the fact WVU was not able to contain the Longhorns in the battle down low.
Moving forward, as the Mountaineers try to claim their NCAA Tournament bid in these last five games and the Big 12 Conference tournament, size does become a factor.
There are teams that can give West Virginia problems in terms of matchups. The Mountaineers will need to adjust and find solutions so they aren’t beaten on the glass, similar to what
Saturday’s game turned into.
A simple lack of execution on offense, added with the inability to stop Texas in the paint and shooting in general, became the overall downfall for WVU in this game.
While the Mountaineers have done a lot of good things in these last few games, could Saturday be an indicator or showing of what the Mountaineers lack in 2013-14?
While I believe WVU will have to find ways to adjust to teams with a significant size and physicality advantage, the Mountaineers have a way to control their own destiny the rest of the season.
If the outcomes of
these last few games are caused by size, however, I, for one, will not be surprised.