West Virginia looks to pick up season sweep vs. Texas on Big Monday
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 00:02
After its second successful weekend road trip in the Big 12, the West Virginia men’s basketball team will return home to attempt a regular-season series sweep against the Texas Longhorns Monday night at the WVU Coliseum, in the second of two contests between the schools this year.
It’s also a chance for the Mountaineers to win consecutive games in the conference for the first time since joining the league this season.
West Virginia (10-11, 3-5) defeated a struggling Texas Tech (9-10, 2-6) Saturday afternoon in its last appearance, but it has fallen in each game it has had an opportunity for a potential winning streak in conference play.
"We executed better than we have all season on offense," said starting sophomore point guard Juwan Staten. "I think that might be the biggest thing. Every shot we planned on getting, we got. And then when we didn’t get a shot, we got to the free-throw line. We made free throws, and we just played like we can play."
The win came at an opportune time for the sputtering Mountaineers, who are currently trying to rebound from their worst start in a decade while somehow maintaining their current streak of five straight NCAA tournament selections.
But with a sub-500 record and just 10 games remaining in the season, that streak could be in serious jeopardy. Still, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins says all hope of playing in the postseason is not yet lost for his team.
"If we can get on a run, I think we’ve got a chance," Huggins said. "If we play well in the conference tournament, then we’re going to have a chance."
Huggins also said he thought the Mountaineers’ strength of schedule, along with the fact the selection committee has historically let in teams with just 17 or 18 wins, could bode well for his team.
But it all begins with parlaying their latest league win into their first Big 12 winning streak Monday night at home against Texas if West Virginia truly has any postseason aspirations this season.
The Longhorns (10-11, 2-6), meanwhile, have also faced some adversity this year. Normally a perennial conference and nationwide power, Texas possesses its own sub-500 overall record that includes just two conferences wins, neither of which came on the road.
Sophomore guard Sheldon McClellan leads all Longhorn players with 14.8 points per game, while Texas’ lone other double-figure scorer, Julien Lewis, averages just less than 12 points per contest.
In addition to picking up their third league victory, the Longhorns will be out to avenge their Jan. 9 loss to the Mountaineers, when WVU erased a double-digit lead in the final five minutes of regulation in Austin before eventually outlasting Texas 57-53 in overtime.
And that certainly wasn’t the first close game between the two teams. In four all-time meetings between the newly appointed conference foes there has never been a game decided by less than four points. In fact, Texas and West Virginia have each won two games in the series, which dates back to 1973, and all four contests have been decided by a sum of just nine total points.
The Mountaineers will only have about a day and a half to prepare for the Longhorns after its second-longest round-trip road trip of the entire season (3,002 miles) after downing Texas Tech in Lubbock, but for once, West Virginia actually has some positive momentum to build off of heading into their second Big Monday appearance on ESPN in as many weeks.
"I’m really proud of our team because we came down here on the road. We knew this was a must-win game," Staten said. "We really haven’t been having a great season, but we came down here and pulled this one off.
"Now we go home – Big Monday against Texas. We gotta get that one, too."