MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Even with last week’s upset of Kansas fresh on his mind, West Virginia’s Devin Williams most cherished Tuesday night’s 71-64 win over Texas.
Twice flattened by blows to the face, Williams still produced 14 points and seven rebounds as 20th-ranked West Virginia snapped a long stretch of futility against the Longhorns.
“Out of all the wins this year, this one tops it for me,” said Williams.
It didn’t matter that point guard Juwan Staten endured an off night for the Mountaineers (22-6, 10-5 Big 12), who were surging of late but had dropped four straight meetings against Texas by double-digit margins.
Jonathan Holton and Daxter Miles each scored 12 points and reserve guard Jevon Carter chipped in 10 for West Virginia, which built an 18-point first-half bulge and held on at the finish.
Texas guard Demarcus Holland scored 14 points and point guard Isaiah Taylor scored 13, but they each committed four turnovers for the Longhorns (17-11, 6-9), who fell to 1-8 against the top six teams in the Big 12 standings.
“It’s a very fine line—just a couple plays,” said Texas coach Rick Barnes, whose team desperately needs a few more wins to cement their NCAA tournament.
West Virginia essentially has clinched its berth by winning for third time in eight days.
“We’ve got the right formula going right now,” Williams said. “We’ve got to keep riding the wave.”
Holmes tossed: The game was stopped early after Williams collided with Longhorns center Cameron Ridley and went to the floor grasping his mouth. With 21 seconds left in the half, Williams tumbled after taking an elbow from Jonathan Holmes. The Texas forward, who came in averaging 10.4 points, was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul and ejected with six points.
“Jon can’t do that,” Barnes said. “Devin set a screen and Jon reacted the wrong way. He knows it. He went over to the West Virginia locker room and apologized. He’s frustrated and he’s had a tough month … but he knows he was wrong.”
Big lead: The Longhorns shot 73 percent from the floor in the opening half, but they committed 12 turnovers and fell behind 33-15 before trailing 36-25 at the break.
After seeing its large lead trimmed to 40-38 with 13:36 to left, West Virginia responded with its own 13-2 run. That was capped by Holton’s second 3-pointer of the night, quite a turn for the forward who had gone 0 of 8 from deep the previous nine games and saw his 3-point shooting accuracy dip to 17 percent.
Longhorns rally: But Holton fouled out with 1:04 left on an and-one play by Taylor. Texas drew within 67-64 on a Holland 3-pointer before West Virginia’s Carter beat the press for a layup with 21 seconds left. Guard Gary Browne added two foul shots with six seconds left, part of the Mountaineers’ 10-of-11 free-throw shooting over the final 2:33.
Those contributions compensated for Staten finishing with only seven points, half his season average, on 3-of-9 shooting. The reigning Big 12 player of the week played 34 minutes despite injuring his knee early in the game.
In the zone: Texas committed 17 turnovers against the Mountaineers’ press but showed signs of figuring it out when West Virginia switched to a 1-3-1 zone for the first time all season.
“We had to change the game,” said coach Bob Huggins. “They got in a rhythm and when people get in a rhythm you’ve got to change the rhythm. They were coming right at us.”
Inside job: Texas started the day leading the Big 12 in rebounding margin (plus-9.7) and outrebounded West Virginia 28-24. The Longhorns also topped the nation in blocks per game (7.5) and swatted four, though the Mountaineers still held a 28-24 edge on points in the paint.
Huggins credited Williams’ toughness: “He was a man. That’s a big front line that he was going against. He rebounded in traffic, he scored in traffic, he made free throws and he made a lot of good passes out of the high post.”