KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No. 11 West Virginia looked too deep and too fresh to allow another Texas comeback.
Behind Jevon Carter’s 21 points, the second-seeded Mountaineers survived a rugged second half to advance 63-53 Thursday in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals.
“We’ve got a lot of ways to win games,” said Nathan Adrian, who finished only six points but grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots. The senior made a steal in front of the West Virginia bench and passed to Carter for a key 3-pointer with 6:34 left.
After a blistering first half, West Virginia (25-7) cooled off to 28-percent shooting in the second half and missed 16 of its final 20 attempts. Still it outscored Texas 24-23 after intermission — virtually erasing NBA prospect Jarrett Allen for long stretches— and moved into Friday night’s semifinal against Kansas State (20-12), which tripped up Baylor 70-64.
Allen managed only one basket during the final 27 minutes to finish with nine points and 10 rebounds. Fellow freshman Andrew Jones scored 13 and Kendal Yancy added 11 for the Longhorns (11-22), who lost all three meetings against WVU.
“They’re young and talented. I don’t see how they lost so many games,” said Tarik Phillip, who had seven points and four assists.
Following top-seeded Kansas falling to TCU earlier Thursday, West Virginia became the favorite to win its first conference tournament title since the Madison Square Garden in 2010.
Last-place Texas had surprised Texas Tech with a late comeback Wednesday and hoped to pile on another upset, trimming an 11-point deficit to 50-46 at the 8:30 mark. But the Mountaineers answered with a 7-0 run capped by Carter’s 3-pointer off the Adrian takeaway.
“That’s just classic Press Virginia,” Carter said. “Nate did what he does — he came up with the steal and saved it to me. I caught it, and noticed I was wide open.”
Carter finished 5-of-8 from 3-point range and made an acrobatic layup in traffic by switching hands. While none of his teammates scored in double figures, Elijah Macon had 10 rebounds and scored six of his eight points in the final 11 minutes, when both offenses sputtered.
Two of Macon’s baskets came on low-post jumpers over the fatigued 6-foot-11 Allen, who played 35 minutes after going 34 the previous night. Macon played 20 minutes, while Sagaba Konate looked spry in a 13-minute outing that produced six points, four boards and two blocks.
“We got into Allen and took him out of the game,” Macon said. “Obviously in the last few minutes he was really tired.”
Adrian tussled with the long-armed Texas freshman for tips and loose balls, winding up on top of Allen when they fell to the floor. By the second half, Allen wasn’t as active.
“He’s a young kid. He’s not used to playing back-to-back games at 34 minutes a game,” Adrian said. “He’ll get used to it though.”
West Virginia might have put the game away earlier if not for 10-of-20 free-throw shooting, but Texas made for good company — shooting 35 percent overall and struggling to 8-of-19 at the foul line.
“We got a lot of open looks that didn’t go in,” said Longhorns coach Shaka Smart. “I think some of the possessions where we turned the ball over or forced up a bad shot, those were really impacted by the way West Virginia defended.”
Press Virginia created 14 turnovers — a relatively tame night — but stayed stingy in its halfcourt defense.
“West Virginia is known for playing hard and aggressive,” Jones said. ”That’s their MO. They took us out of our offense a little bit.”
The Mountaineers made their first five 3-pointers and were 6-of-9 by halftime, with Carter hitting four of those on his way to 16 points.
His free throws 5 seconds before the break capped a 10-1 run that resulted in a 39-30 lead.
Texas went without a basket during the final 7:05 of the half, missing seven consecutive shots — the last when Kerwin Roach’s driving lay-up rolled off at the buzzer.