MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Is the Texas matchup as daunting for West Virginia as it appeared during the regular season? Well, considering that the Longhorns aren’t shrinking and the Mountaineers aren’t growing, then yes, it is.

Between Cameron Ridley, Conner Lammert and Prince Ibeh—the Texas trio who stand 6-foot-9 or taller—they made 20-of-29 shots against West Virginia. Small wonder then that UT coasted 80-69 in Morgantown and looked even more commanding in taking the rematch 88-71. But, hey, as All-Big 12 point guard Juwan Staten reminded us Monday, “It’s hard to beat a team three times.”

When the teams square off late Thursday night in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals, West Virginia will be clinging to more than cliché.

For instance, there’s hope within the Mountaineers camp that the Devin Williams who has produced three consecutive double-doubles will wage more competitive war than he did previously. The freshman’s puny two-game totals against that Texas beef? Try 2-of-12 shooting for four points and three rebounds.

The Feb. 15 loss in Austin featured a glaring 46-14 scoring discrepancy in the paint, while the Horns’ edge in rebounding was nearly as broad, 41-26.

But Williams’ recent work has shown a rebirth, specifically his 22 points and 13 rebounds in Saturday’s upset of Kansas.

“That was probably one of his poorer games (in Austin), but I feel like he’s playing better now,” said coach Bob Huggins. “I thought he was better Saturday than he’s been all year. Scored it through contact better.”

Williams might not need to shoot 8-of-10 like he did against Kansas, but he needs to threaten the defense with his midrange game enough to unclog driving lanes for Staten and WVU’s pick-and-rollers. While helping forge Saturday’s upset, Williams looked comfortable swishing a baseline jumper from inches inside the 3-point line and drawing contact from late-arriving defenders.

“Devin’s the best guy we have if you’re talking about trying to drag those bigs away from the basket,” Huggins said. “He’s probably our most consist shooter 15- to 17-foot range.”

Williams is just one component, though, to West Virginia’s third-time charm. Team defense was so woeful that Texas shot 52 percent and 57 percent in its wins. Whether it was Isaiah Taylor making floaters in the lane or 35-percent shooter Javan Felix sinking 15-of-29 shots, the Longhorns’ guard tandem riddled the Mountaineers for key buckets.

“The team that wins usually gets the most easy baskets, generally,” Huggins said. “They’ve gotten a bunch of easy baskets against us.”

While Texas (22-9) has an NCAA bid sewn up, West Virginia (17-14) is likely NIT-bound unless it wins the Big 12 tournament. So there’s extra incentive on the underdogs’ side, along with the law of averages.

“We played two of our worse games against the year against Texas,” Staten said. “It has us thinking that we’re due for a good game against them.”

bubble graphic

14

bubble graphic

Comments

  • ole sasquatch

    Emphasis is on the defense for us tonight. We must refuse to be intimidated by Ridley and Ibeh. I believe we will need 2 bigs in there most of the time playing very aggressively to accomplish this. Say what you will about Noreen he will not be intimidated and probably not Willaims. If ever Watkins needed to step up - it is tonight. If he is on his game he will block some critical shots.
    You cannot count on Adrian & Remy to do the intimidation but they need to block out and score.

  • DP

    jay zoom, mad hatter and William-you three are all the same. THREE NEGATIVE JERKS!!!!!

  • Mister Man

    Mr. Williams will do fine. He will play with intensity. In my opinion he has done an outstanding job. He will continue to progress. I hope he takes time to have fun while he's doing it. My family is happy he chose to be a Mountaineer.

  • TW EAGLE

    hopefully Mr Williams continues to develop as a BB player . . . it seems he wasn't quite as ready either mentally or physically for competition at the D1 level as he thought he was before the season began . . . as we saw with the ladies , the XII conference tournament is NOT for the faint of heart . . .
    conditioning , core body strength , and building a tougher mental approach should be at the top of Mr Williams list for things to do in the off season . . . When you think you HAVE arrived , redouble your work efforts , cause your mind has let you down again . . .

  • Rick55

    As much as I like Remy, I think his role in this game should probably be minimized. His defense has been atrocious, his strength is outside shooting, and we already have a plethora of that. We need big defense and rebounding from our bigs in this game. And while Kevin's scoring is nonexistent and his rebounding is not that good, he is a good defensive player. Now watch Remy grab 15 rebounds, play great defense. Go Mountaineers!!!!!!

  • Bartholamule

    Let's gooooooooo!!!!
    MOUNTAINEERS!!!!!!

  • Aaron

    When you get outscored in the paint 46-14, you have got to try something different. With Henderson back, I think they should go with a line-up of Staten, Harris, Henderson, Adrian and Williams and spread the court.

    Keep Williams in the high post or pop him out on the baseline and utilize Staten's driving ability and kick out's.

    I would not play Williams and Noreen at the same time and if Dibo can actually play any defense at all, I'd sub him for Williams instead of Noreen.

    I think WVU's best chance is to spread the game, hit from long range and force the tempo against their bigs.

    The worst thing that can happen is you get outscored in the paint and lose the game. If shots are dropping though, a Friday match-up against Oklahoma becomes promising.

    At any rate, it's still a Great Day to be a Mountaineer!!!

    • squad

      Adrian starts ..and then a lot of times doesn't ever log much time

      • Aaron

        Nate Adrian is a part time starter. Of the 31 games, he's started 16 times.

  • jay zoom

    from what I see its one and done.

    • Allen

      Jay Z, do that picking WVU 1 and done is due to Marshall poor season and you feel irritated?

    • tony riggs

      from what I see... jay zoom is in no way your real name, bucco

    • Aaron

      Perhaps but you must admit, with your distaste for both Oliver Luck and Bob Huggins, your vision is clouded with bias.

    • Dave

      You're looking at it with blinders on. You Probably thought the same thing about the Iowa State and Kansas game. The way I see it is, this is a great opportunity to get back at Texas and advance.

      LET'S GOOOOOOOOOO MOUNTAINEERS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!