After failing to earn a road win against a team it beat by 32 points at home, West Virginia will attempt to avoid the same fate against the team it throttled by 38 at WVU Coliseum.
The Mountaineers (19-8, 7-7 Big 12) limp into Texas’ Erwin Center with four losses in their past five games, including Saturday’s 67-60 overtime defeat at TCU.
West Virginia hasn’t won on the road since beating Oklahoma State on Jan. 6. The Mountaineers fell three spots to 20th in this week’s AP Top 25.
The Longhorns (16-11, 6-8) are in must-win mode as they attempt to scrape together a record the NCAA tournament committee will take into consideration. Texas has been without starting power forward Jericho Sims and starting wing Jase Febres for the past three games, and both are still listed as being out indefinitely with lower-back injuries.
Even with both players in the lineup, the Horns were absolutely no match for the Mountaineers in Morgantown on Jan. 20.
West Virginia humiliated Texas 97-59, marking the biggest blowout loss for the Longhorns in a conference game since 1983. Febres was easily Texas’ best player on the floor in that game, scoring a game-high 18 points.
Unfortunately for West Virginia, what happens in Morgantown has been staying in Morgantown. On Saturday, the Mountaineers looked nothing like the team that beat TCU 81-49 in West Virginia.
The most troubling element of the TCU loss was how it happened. The Horned Frogs have the ability to blitz opponents from outside, but actually beat West Virginia by exploiting what is supposed to be its defensive strength.
TCU used the pick-and-roll to get plenty of easy shots and finished the game shooting 50 percent (18 of 36) from inside the arc. In their first meeting, the Frogs were 7 of 21 (33 percent) shooting twos.
Texas was only 31 percent from two-point range in its prior meeting with the Mountaineers. If the Longhorns are able to flip the script near the rim as well as the Horned Frogs did, then West Virginia is in danger of another embarrassing road result.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins sounded alarmed after losing to TCU, knowing his team is squandering a chance to earn a solid seed in the NCAA tournament. A loss to Texas would accelerate the downward trend into something closer to a nosedive.
“We’ve lost to the bottom part of the league. You can’t do that. You just can’t do that,” Huggins said. “Any time you turn on the TV you’ll hear about how we dropped in the NET. I really thought this could be a special year that all West Virginians could rally around. Maybe it still can be.”
No. 20 West Virginia Mountaineers (19-8, 7-7) at Texas Longhorns (16-11, 6-8)
TV: ESPNU, 7 p.m.
Last meeting: West Virginia beat Texas, 97-59, on Jan. 20 at WVU Coliseum