MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — This time No. 6 West Virginia built a second-half lead that was too big to fail, dominating Texas 86-51 on Saturday.
Along with 22 points and eight assists from Jevon Carter, the Mountaineers received a boost from sixth man Beetle Bolden, who overcame a first-half groin injury to score 19 points.
That paired nicely with the elevating effort of Sagaba Konate — who got the best of Longhorns center Mohamed Bamba — in the kind of start-to-finish performance missing from the previous two losses.
“This game helped us get back on track,” Carter said after scoring 15 second-half points.
“We had a lead on Texas Tech, and we had a lead on Kansas, and we blew them both. So we knew we had to come out and play as hard as we can in the second half. Don’t let up.”
The Mountaineers (16-3, 5-2) took over sole possession of second place in the Big 12, remaining a game back of Kansas.
They closed the first half on a 15-2 run to lead 32-22, and then they really poured it on with a 15-0 spurt that stretched the margin to 60-37 with 7 minutes left.
Competitive in every previous game, Texas (12-7, 3-4) provided scant resistance this time.
“West Virginia’s spirit and fighting energy was by far superior today,” said Longhorns coach Shaka Smart. “We knew they were going to be extremely motivated and aggressive coming off their last two games, and we didn’t stand up to them.”
Daxter Miles scored 15, and the sophomore Konate stood up to his projected one-and-done counterpart with 10 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks.
While Bamba was no small presence — as if the kid with a 7-foot-9 wingspan ever could be — his touches were limited. The freshman’s only shot over the final 17 minutes was an off-target 3-pointer, and he ended with nine points, 13 boards and four blocks.
On one possession, Konate waived off help defense while stalemating Bamba on the low post.
“I was trying to challenge him,” Konate said.
West Virginia’s defensive intensity enjoyed a resurgence, cutting off the driving lanes that allow the Texas guards to lob alley-oops.
“The biggest way that Bamba scores is off of penetration,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins. “They’re really good at penetrating and making you help up, and when you help up, they throw the ball over you head and he dunks it.”
Kerwin Roach and Eric Young had nine points each for Texas, whose leading scorer Dylan Osetkowski finished with eight — half his average — and five turnovers.
The Longhorns went particularly cold while making only one basket over the final 9:21 of the half, missing nine straight shots and committing four turnovers.
“We didn’t get to what we wanted to execute nearly crisply enough, or at all, and it led to a real drought,” said Smart, whose team had not lost a game by double-digits this season.
The Longhorns sank only 3-of-15 from 3-point range, and shot 34 percent overall.
Carter made 4-of-7 from deep himself and West Virginia hit 12-of-23— quite a perk for the team that opened the weekend ranked No. 282 in the nation in 3-point accuracy.
“We just wanted to spend them out,” said Bolden after going 5-of-6 on 3s.
West Virginia owned the rebounding battle 45-29, contributing to a 21-6 edge in second-chance points. Plus, it made all 12 of its free throws and put the game away with 65-percent shooting from the floor after halftime.
A disappointed Smart wondered where his elite defense broke down: From allowing 58 points to Texas Tech on Wednesday night to yielding nearly that many to WVU in the second half alone.
“Just not enough toughness to take away what they wanted to do,” Smart said. “We were nowhere near as aggressive and tough and mean as we needed to be in the second half and they scored 54 points.”