Mountaineers seeking to revise Texas history, keep pace with Kansas

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Though West Virginia’s pressure defense reached max-agitation Saturday, TCU fed the turnover storm with its own series of foolish passes.

“I felt like they were just throwing it without any purpose, like they were throwing it just to throw it,” said West Virginia guard Jaysean Paige. “Smart teams ain’t going to do that.”

In particular, Shaka Smart’s team ain’t going to do that.

When Texas (16-9, 7-5) committed only eight turnovers and beat the Mountaineers (20-5, 9-3) in January’s first meeting, it matched the fewest forced in the 60 games since “Press Virginia” became a phenomenon. There are tweaks at Bob Huggins’ disposal—variations on when, whom and how to trap that will throw Texas different looks this time around—yet 10th-ranked WVU isn’t simply presuming UT will play another clean game.

“We are what we are and we’re committed to playing the way that we play,” Huggins said. “Our guys are conditioned to do what we do.”

Likewise, Smart’s team is conditioned against sloppy play, topping the Big 12 and ranking eighth nationally at only 10.7 turnovers per game. Some of that is attributable to point guard Isaiah Taylor, and some credit goes to the

“When I was at VCU we were pretty good at turning people over when they had one point guard—even if that one primary ballhandler was really good—because you have ways to get the ball out of his hands and make other guys make decisions,” he said.

No. 24 Texas has dominated the recent series by winning five of six overall and back-to-back games at the Erwin Center by an average cushion of 22 points. West Virginia has forward Jonathan Holton back in the rotation after a four-game disciplinary absence, but shooting guard Daxter Miles is questionable with a hamstring injury he incurred in the final 4 minutes of the 73-42 romp over TCU.

“It’s a hard game,” Huggins said. “We’ve got to try and do our thing and hopefully make some shots this time.”

West Virginia enters tonight a half-game off the Big 12 lead after Kansas ripped Oklahoma State on Monday night. At 4-2 the Mountaineers own the best in-conference road record, while Texas is 5-0 at home in league action.

Tipoff: Tuesday 7 p.m. at Erwin Center in Austin (ESPN2)

RPIs: West Virginia 11, Texas 21

Scouting the Longhorns: After Texas lost tight road games to top-25 Oklahoma and Iowa State last week, Smart suggested he’s OK with players engaging in trash-talking and becoming more animated on the court. “I wouldn’t mind more guys demonstrating some swagger out there,” Smart said. “I told them it’s amazing how much energy you can create if you want to, if you are in the right place mentally.” … Taylor (15.2 points, 5.0 assists) was 0-of-8 shooting in Morgantown but played 36 turnover-free minutes, grabbed six rebounds and made three assists as UT won 56-49. … Javan Felix (11.1 points, 2.2 assists) scored 17 in that meeting, continuing his history of burning WVU. …  6-10 forward Connor Lammert  (6.4 points, 5.4 rebounds) has taken 101 of his 139 overall shots from 3-point range. … With big Cam Ridley still rehabbing a broken foot, 6-11 center Prince Ibeh (4.2 points, 5.2 rebounds) is shooting nearly 69 percent from the floor in Big 12 play. Yet he’s only a 42-percent foul shooter. … Smart is indoctrinating a solid group of freshmen in Tevin Mack (5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds), Eric Davis Jr. (7.3 points, 2.5 rebounds) and Kerwin Roach (6.8 points, 3,0 rebounds).

WVU trends: Potentially losing Miles (10.1 points, 2.4 rebounds) isn’t the equivalent of missing Holton, as the sophomore guard shoots only 24 percent from 3 in road games with more turnovers than assists. … Holton (9.9 points, 7.5 assists) gave an overall stellar effort against TCU, including five assists. …  The Mountaineers shot 31 percent from the floor vs. Texas in January and compounded that with 8-of-23 free-throw shooting. …  Saying WVU has “just got to go out there and dog out” tonight, Devin Williams (13.3, 9.0) is seeking his 26th career double-double. Huggins linked Williams to Kevin Jones as the top power forwards he has coached at West Virginia. … Paige (14.0 points, 3.7 rebounds) was only 3-of-10 shooting vs. TCU but matched his career-high with seven rebounds and made four steals. … Esa Ahmad (4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds) is coming off a career-best 14 points and Nate Adrian (4.2 points, 3.1 rebounds) has made nine of his last 12 3-pointers. … Thanks to a dreadful nine-game slump, Jevon Carter (9.8 points, 3.3 assists) has dipped to 30-percent shooting on 3s.

Line: Texas -3

Prediction: Texas 69-67

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