The No. 13 West Virginia men’s basketball team needed all it could to defeat the No. 12 Texas Longhorns, but the Mountaineers ultimately won after trailing by 19 points in the second half, 84-82 on Saturday.
West Virginia looked like two completely different teams between the first and second halves against UT as it overcame shooting 12-of-32 (38%) from the field in the first half to shoot 55% from the floor in the second half. Texas looked like a different team in the second half as well. After shooting 21-of-30 (70%) from field goal range in the first half, the Longhorns were a woeful 11-of-29 (38%) in the second half.
Head coach Bob Huggins was impressed with the tremendous effort the Mountaineers showed after trailing by as much as 19 points in the second half.
“They were really good,” Huggins said on the effort by his team. “We played hard. We played hard in the second half and I thought the second half is how we need to play all the time.”
West Virginia had five players score in double-digits with Miles McBride leading the team with 17 points. Sean McNeil pitched in 16 points — all in the second half — on 3-of-5 shooting from three-point range. Derek Culver, Taz Sherman and Emmitt Matthews each scored 14 points with Matthews also grabbing seven rebounds.
Huggins saw the defensive changes made by the Mountaineers as one of the keys for the double-digit comeback along with being able to score the ball.
“We made some shots, we did a better job defensively,” Huggins said. “I thought we really slowed them down in the second half with what we did defensively and then we made shots. Sean (McNeil) came in and hit some big shots for us, Taz (Sherman) hit some big shots and Deuce (Miles McBride) hit some big shots for us.”
The Longhorns scored an unbelievable 53 points in the first half. The Mountaineers made obvious adjustments defensively in the second half with Texas only managing 29 points.
“We’ve been spending time on matchups for a while here,” Huggins said on the defensive changes made by WVU. “It’s personnel driven like a lot of things are. You don’t want bad shooters to shoot, you want good shooters to shoot and you don’t want bad defenders to defend, you want good defenders to defend.”
The Mountaineers did have to contend with Texas’ Courtney Ramey who scored a career-high 28 points before fouling out with over two minutes remaining in the game. Huggins credited the play by Sherman that led to Ramey picking up his fifth foul.
“Taz (Sherman) has a really good understanding of what’s supposed to happen,” Huggins said. “He’s a guy that we can put in there and he’s not going to shoot something off his back foot or anything. We feel really comfortable with him in the post.”
West Virginia will remain in Texas, as it will travel to Fort Worth, Texas, to face the TCU Horned Frogs on Tuesday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.