It seems increasingly safe to stick a fork in West Virginia’s basketball season, and fair to wonder whether the Mountaineers care that there’s a fork protruding from their bodies.
The 20th-ranked Mountaineers (19-9, 7-8 Big 12) continued to watch their once-promising season to swirl down the drain, falling for the fifth time in six games in a 67-57 loss at Texas. West Virginia blasted the Longhorns by 38 points when the teams met at WVU Coliseum on Jan. 20, which was Texas’ worst conference defeat in 37 years.
Monday night, that performance felt like it took place a decade ago rather than a month ago.
“[Our psyche] was shaken the Oklahoma game. And it didn’t change,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said in his postgame radio show. “We have a bunch of people who found more important things in their lives than being in the gym, point-blank. That doesn’t help you.
“We’re not the same in film study. We’re not the same as we were before. There’s not guys asking questions, going full-speed.”
Despite using only eight players because it had three men out with injury or illness, Texas (17-11, 7-8) thoroughly outplayed West Virginia for the entire game. The Longhorns shot 52 percent (22 of 42) from the field, and more tellingly tied the Mountaineers with 29 rebounds.
Texas was 36 percent from the field when the teams met in Morgantown, and outrebounded by a 53-25 margin.
Two Longhorns crossed the 20-point barrier at the Erwin Center, led by Andrew Jones’ 22 points.
Jones was 5 of 7 from three-point range. During one juncture early in the first half, Jones scored 11 points of a 13-0 Texas run that put the Longhorns up by 11. West Virginia never retook the lead.
Guard Courtney Ramey added 21 points, including a trio of threes.
Oscar Tshiebwe bounced back from a career-worst performance at TCU on Saturday, leading West Virginia with 14 points and six rebounds. Derek Culver added 12 points, but was 2 of 8 from the free-throw line.
“He’s a mess right now,” Huggins said of Culver’s free-throw stroke. “I had him straightened out. It looked good, he was making free throws. And then you go back to doing what you were doing before. It’s muscle memory.
“You’ve done the thing so long that it’s engrained in your muscular system. You just have to go in and engrain the right way. But that takes a lot of work.”
Overall West Virginia was an appalling 47.6 percent from the line (10 of 21), while also missing the front end of four 1-and-1 attempts. Two of those were missed by Culver, but Jordan McCabe and Sean McNeil — both 80-percent foul shooters — also missed their front ends.
McNeil scored 13 points, and was a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range in the first half.
But neither McNeil nor Taz Sherman — West Virginia’s leading three-point shooters — were on the floor in the final four minutes of the game with the Mountaineers trailing by three scores. West Virginia attempted only three treys in the second half, one of which was desperately heaved by Jermaine Haley in the game’s final minute.
Huggins blamed the lack of three-pointers in the second half on poor screens.
West Virginia has lost six consecutive road games since beating Oklahoma State on Jan. 6. The Mountaineers are 1-16 in Big 12 road games since the start of last season.
West Virginia will try to get back on track against the team that began its current slide.
The Mountaineers host Oklahoma (16-11, 6-8) on Saturday afternoon at WVU Coliseum. Rod Thorn’s No. 44 will be retired in a halftime ceremony.