MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — They came armed with their “Horns Down” foam fingers, and as an extra bonus, the West Virginia student section even constructed their props to glow in the dark.
But when Texas connected on nine 3-pointers and a series alley-oop dunks, it was plain to see that it wasn’t the Longhorns who were down. West Virginia put up little fight in its 75-53 defeat, the fifth double-figure loss in the last six games for the Mountaineers (10-14, 2-9).
“It was kind of like a domino effect,” West Virginia guard Chase Harler said. “One bad thing just led to another. That’s when good teams really lock in on defense and we’re still struggling to do that. In order for us to turn this around, we have to buy in on defense. When we get in a hole, we have to stick together and keep competing.”
As West Virginia players dealt with the pain and frustration of yet another second-half collapse, the fans chose not to. A reported crowd of 12,815 departed in droves midway through the second half. At one point, scoreboard cameras featured country music star Cole Swindell sitting courtside. He stood up and raised his arms in an attempt to fire up the home crowd, but with 6:59 remaining, there were few left to fire up. Minutes later, Swindell, too, had exited.
What was left was yet another group of West Virginia players making silly mistakes, like losing the grip on uncontested rebounds or making a no-look pass to a teammate who wasn’t looking either. The Mountaineers sure looked like the Big 12’s last-place team.
“I shouldn’t say this, but the reality is they are more talented than we are, and so we have to do things right,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “We didn’t do things right. When you aren’t as talented as other people and you don’t do things right, it’s not going to be a good outcome for you.”
Texas made it look rather easy with eight dunks that led to 53-percent shooting in the second half. The Longhorns outscored WVU 41-25.
Freshman guard Courtney Ramey, who came in averaging 6.6 points, tied his career-high with 19 points. Kerwin Roach added 14, his 10th consecutive game scoring in double figures. Both players exited well before the game was over.
“I want them to really understand why we won convincingly,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “The hardest thing is putting it in a bottle and bringing it back out when the next game comes. But, we have to keep getting better. I want them to feel good about winning. Losing certainly sucks.”
The Mountaineers have known that feeling all too well this season.
Despite going scoreless over the first four minutes of the game, the Mountaineers did not find themselves out of the game early, as neither team stood out offensively. West Virginia finished 9 of 28 shooting in the first half – the same amount of field goals it had the entire game in Monday’s loss at Texas Tech – but the Longhorns (14-10, 6-5) never pulled away.
Texas was held to 12-of-32 from the field in the first half, but its 34-28 halftime lead was built on shooting 6 of 12 from 3-point range.
Any hope of a second-half run was quickly ended with a Texas 10-1 run to start the second half that saw both Kerwin Roach III and Jaxon Hayes score on dunks and Courtney Ramey added a wide open 3-pointer for a 44-29 lead. By the time Jase Febres connected on the Longhorns’ eighth three of the game with 13:47 left, Texas had a 51-35 lead, forcing Huggins to call a timeout.
As for what went wrong with West Virginia, well, it’s a story written several times already this year.
To go along with a lack of defense, the Mountaineers struggled offensively. They managed 18-of 51 shooting from the floor (35.3 percent) and 3-of-16 from 3-point range. Texas scored 40 points in the paint and held a 42-34 rebounding advantage, including a 16-11 edge in offensive rebounds.
The Mountaineers were led by Esa Ahmad’s 14 points and six rebounds. He shot 6-of-15 from the floor, but scored just six points in the second half. Derek Culver scored seven points and added 11 rebounds.