MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Big 12’s version of slam-dunk contest broke out a week before the NBA’s, and it was done entirely at West Virginia’s expense on Saturday night.
Texas threw down eight dunks in the second half of its 75-53 win over the Mountaineers, the majority of which were either lightly contested or totally uncontested.
“It’s embarrassing,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said of the dunkfest. “I’m embarrassed. I’m not sure our guys are, but I was embarrassed.”
Texas coach Shaka Smart went into the game looking to attack the rim, but it didn’t happen in the first half as Texas did most of its scoring from behind the three-point arc. The Longhorns hit six three-pointers to take a 34-28 lead into the locker room.
But the Longhorns decided to shorten the length of their shots considerably in the second half. Kerwin “Snoop” Roach threw down a monstrous dunk on Texas’ first shot out of the break, effectively setting the tone for the rest of the game.
“That was the game plan coming in. First play of the second half, we wanted to see if we could get a back door and Snoop did a good job finishing,” Smart said. “We wanted to get in the paint as much as we could because three-point shots have been feast and famine for us.”
West Virginia is enduring its worst stretch of basketball in more than two decades.
The Mountaineers have lost their last two games by a combined 55 points, which marks the widest back-to-back margin of defeat for West Virginia since the 1995-96 season. That year was West Virginia’s first in the Big East, and it showed in consecutive losses by a combined 45 points to Georgetown (91-67) and Boston College (84-63) on Jan. 31 and Feb. 3.
Smart pays tribute to Carter
In Smart’s eyes, it’s easy to tell why West Virginia isn’t as good this year as has typically been the case under Huggins.
The Texas coach pointed out that the Mountaineers are currently playing without their two best players in forward Sagaba Konate and guard Beetle Bolden.
“They’re undermanned right now. Those are two really, really good players sitting over there in warm-ups,” Smart said. “That changes things for their team.”
Mostly, though, Smart sees a team unable to fill the impossible void left by guard Jevon Carter, who is currently playing in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies.
“My favorite player in the league last year was Jevon Carter,” Smart said. “He was as central to their team and culture as anyone in college basketball the past couple years. You can’t just plug someone in to replace that.”
The eyes of Texas are upon you
The students have ingeniously combined light-up foam fingers to form “Horns Down.” Credit to the engineering program. pic.twitter.com/VRW0NDSYz2
— Alex Hickey (@bigahickey) February 10, 2019
Smart said he took notice of the pregame antics from the Mountaineer Maniacs student section. Dozens of students creatively took advantage of a foam finger giveaway, molding two of the giant hands together and turning them upside-down to form the “Horns Down” symbol.
“Horns Down” has become a Big 12 flash point since Mountaineers wide receiver David Sills was penalized for throwing the anti-Texas hand sign during last autumn’s football game.
“I noticed. I always notice that stuff,” Smart said. “I think there’s great fans here. They really understand what it means to be connected around one identity, and part of that is getting on the other team. As a visiting player, you have to relish that and enjoy that. If you play the way you want to play, you can flip it around and use it to fuel your own team and your own energy.”