Coming off a surprising loss against Kansas State on Saturday, the No. 14 West Virginia men’s basketball team responded in a big way, beating the Texas Longhorns on Monday, 97-59.
After leading by two at 15-13, the Mountaineers (15-3, 4-2 Big 12) exploded and went on a 28-2 run to take a 43-15 lead as the first half was winding down. West Virginia took a 45-20 lead into the break.
The second half was much of the same, with WVU taking as much as a 43-point lead and cruising to the finish line. A three-pointer by walk-on freshman Spencer Macke capped off the almost perfect night for West Virginia.
“We didn’t let them (Texas) play out in the middle of the floor,” head coach Bob Huggins said after the game. “We kind of kept them on the side. We, defensively, did what we had to do.”
The Mountaineers did not do what they had to do defensively against Kansas State, but they turned it around against a Texas team that was coming off a close loss to the Kansas Jayhawks.
“A lot of the hype isn’t just for fun,” sophomore Derek Culver said. “We’re out here really putting in the hard work that we’re supposed to to be one of the better defensive teams in the country and today we tried to showcase that.”
The dynamic duo of Culver and freshman Oscar Tshiebwe led the team with 13 points apiece. They also had a combined 19 rebounds, leading WVU to a 53-25 rebounding advantage.
Senior Jermaine Haley had 12 points and seven rebounds while sophomores Jordan McCabe and Emmitt Matthews Jr. got out of a shooting slump and put in 10 and eight points, respectively.
“I stopped looking over my shoulder and just started to play,” McCabe said. “Production numbers fluctuate with (the) roster. Our roster changed a lot, and I had to realize what I had around me and use it to the best of my ability.”
Texas (12-6, 2-4) got into a lot of early foul trouble as four players each picked up three fouls in the first half. The Longhorns were taken advantage of inside the paint, with WVU holding a 52-18 advantage in points down low.
Turnovers have been a major issue for WVU this season but the team showed a glimpse of what it can do when they hold onto the ball. The Mountaineers only turned the ball over eight times, a big turnaround for a team averaging over 15 per game coming in.
“I think they’re finally understanding we can’t throw it away every other time,” Huggins said. “We should be much better at handling the ball than what we are.”
WVU will stay at home when they take on the Missouri Tigers Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN and will tip off at noon.