MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia endured bouts of sloppy ballhandling, lost the rebounding battle and squandered an 11-point second-half lead. Certainly not the preferred recipe for their Big Monday matchup against Texas, yet the Mountaineers escaped with a 60-58 victory, earning a season sweep of the Longhorns.
Jabarie Hinds and Deniz Kilicli scored 14 points each to carry WVU (11-11, 4-5 Big 12), which had lost three of its last four at the Coliseum. The Mountaineers were in danger of another late-game collapse when Julien Lewis’ 3-pointer moved Texas ahead 54-53 with 4:37 to play.
After Eron Harris put West Virginia back in front with a basket from the right wing, Longhorns forward Jaylen Bond missed two free throws. On the opposite end, Kilicli bulled into the lane and tossed in a runner while getting fouled by Ioannis Papapetrous. The big Turk celebrated by pounding his chest in front of the WVU student section, and then he sank the and-one free throw to make it a 58-54 cushion.
“That wound up being the ballgame,” said Kilicli, who finished 6-of-8 shooting.
“It was a hard-fought game and we knew it would be coming in,” said Texas coach Rick Barnes, whose team dropped a 57-53 overtime decision to WVU three weeks ago in Austin. “We’ve had two of them against West Virginia. We are close, but it’s a couple possessions here and there that we need to get.”
Texas, despite missing its final seven field-goal tries, was afforded a chance to force an overtime repeat after some defensive silliness by West Virginia. Down 60-56, UT’s Sheldon McClellan attempted a 3-pointer and was bumped by Aaric Murray with 0.7 seconds left. McClellan made the first two free throws and purposely missed the third, giving UT an opportunity for the game-tying tip, but Murray snared the rebound to kill the clock.
The Longhorns (10-12, 2-7) outrebounded WVU 36-29 yet fell to 1-9 away from Austin and 0-6 in true road games. Still, Barnes liked his team’s fight on a night when only 4,966 fans made it to the Coliseum because of snowstorms.
West Virginia closed the first half on a 17-5 run and carried that momentum into the second half, leading 44-33 with 14:16 left. Then Texas went on a 12-2 run — eight of those points coming from point guard Javan Felix, who had 12 overall and seven assists — to pull ahead 49-47 with 7:50 left.
“Their point guard played great,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said. “He made some hard shots.”
McClellan, just 2-of-13 shooting in the first meeting, made only 2-of-10 shots from the floor this time, but produced 14 points thanks to 9-of-11 foul shooting. He also collected eight rebounds. Papapetrous and Lewis added 10 points each for Texas.
Limited to three baskets in the game’s first 12 minutes, the Mountaineers rallied to shoot 46 percent from the floor.
During one comical stretch inside the final five minutes, Papapetrous lost his left shoe while tangling with Keaton Miles near the top of the key. As the play continued, WVU’s Juwan Staten grabbed the loose shoe and flung it two rows deep into the student section, generating a roar. Papapetrous was visibly flummoxed but had the last laugh moments later by beating Miles to an offensive rebound in his sock.
Assessed Huggins: “I told Keaton, ‘If you can’t block out a guy with one shoe, who are you gonna block out?'”
Kudos to Coliseum officials who shortly after tip-off welcomed fans in the nose-bleed seats to come down to lower sections. With another snowstorm knocking out power and creating treacherous road conditions, WVU played before an arena that was less than one-third full.
Still, Huggins was appreciative of the crowd that braved the elements: “I thought getting 4,000 people here tonight, considering the conditions, was pretty good.”
Shackling the Longhorns
While Texas is shooting 43 percent through nine Big 12 games, its two encounters with West Virginia have produced 34- and 35-percent efforts. Those are not only the Longhorns’ worst single-game performances in conference play, but also their lowest of the season.
“I think West Virginia is an excellent defensive team,” Barnes said. “They’re not going to give you a lot.”
Murray nearly blanked
Though he grabbed eight rebounds, Murray was 0-for-3 from the floor and produced only one point — more than nine below his team-leading average. He also committed three of West Virginia’s 16 turnovers.
“He’s got to score,” said Kilicli. “If he would’ve scored tonight this would have been a 12-point game.”
Barnes wasn’t pointing fingers at the officials after West Virginia finished 20-of-29 from the line and Texas shot 11-of-16.
“We need our big guys to get into position and draw some fouls,” he said.
Kilicli on the Mountaineers committing five turnovers during a four-minute span that helped Texas climb out of an 11-point hole: “We like to keep it exciting for the fans. We just throw the ball all over the place to keep it close so people don’t leave with four minutes left in the game.”