(Bob Huggins postgame Zoom conference)
Not one to mince words, Bob Huggins laid into his West Virginia team at halftime of Saturday’s game at Texas.
Huggins had seen enough after watching the Longhorns make 21-of-30 shots to build a 53-43 lead at the break.
“I don’t think you’d want to print what was said at halftime,” Huggins said. “It had to do with the work we’ve put in and why don’t we do what we’re taught to do? It was about our enthusiasm to get it done and our ability to help one another.”
The Mountaineers fell behind by 19 early in the second half, before chipping away at the Texas advantage thanks to improved defense. West Virginia eventually pulled even at 76 with 6:29 remaining, then did enough down the stretch to earn an 84-82 victory and regular season split with the No. 12 Longhorns.
It marks the second time this season the 13th-ranked Mountaineers have rallied from a 19-point deficit for a road win in Big 12 play with the other occasion being January 4 at Oklahoma State.
“It’s something in the West Virginia culture and our DNA here is to never quit no matter how much you get down,” said guard Miles McBride, who led the Mountaineers with 17 points.
West Virginia (15-6, 8-4 Big 12) utilized a different style of man-to-man defense, employing matchup zone principles to limit the Longhorns (13-6, 7-5) to 11-of-29 shooting with 10 turnovers in the second half.
“We’ve been spending time on matchup for a while here,” Huggins said. “It’s personnel driven like a lot of things are.”
WVU guard Sean McNeil, who was limited to 2 minutes in the first half with two fouls, made consecutive field goals to close the deficit to 70-62 with 11:02 left.
By the time McNeil scored again on a 3-pointer with 8:08 remaining, the Texas lead had been trimmed to 74-71. McBride’s triple tied the game at 76 and oddly enough marked the Mountaineers’ final field goal.
Taz Sherman and McNeil combined to make 5-of-5 free throws to give WVU a five-point lead, only for Texas guard Courtney Ramey to score six straight points and put the Longhorns back in front.
Sherman then used a nice pump fake in the paint to draw Ramey’s fifth foul and made both free throws to give WVU a one-point lead.
“Taz has a really good understanding of what’s supposed to happen,” Huggins said.
Texas had a chance to tie or win on its final possession, but Andrew Jones missed a 3 and Jericho Sims’ shot from close range fell short at the buzzer as McBride soared to contest it.
“Did I foul him? They didn’t call it,” McBride said. “I guess I didn’t foul him.”
After Mountaineer forward Emmitt Matthews missed two late free throws, Jones made the game-winning 3 to give the Longhorns a come-from-behind 72-70 win at West Virginia on January 9.
Matthews was one of three Mountaineers to score 14 points in Saturday’s win and led the team with seven rebounds.
“I put that (first Texas) game on myself personally,” he said. “Missing two free throws to potentially seal the game, I took it personal. I wanted to give it my all today and make sure I was diving for loose balls and all the things like that.”
McNeil scored all 16 of his points in the second half, while Sherman and Derek Culver added 14 apiece.
Ramey had a game-high 28 points, while fellow Texas guard Matt Coleman III scored 20. The duo combined to make 17-of-22 field goals in defeat, but the Longhorns scored only 12 points over the final 13:23 of play.
“We gave up so many straight line drives in the first half, it was ridiculous,” Huggins said. “We did a better job of making rotations and we had three or four steals during the stretch where we made up some points, but a lot of it was those guys doing a much better job guarding the ball.”
The Mountaineers will remain in Texas for their next two contests. They’re scheduled to play at TCU on Tuesday before getting their first crack at unbeaten Baylor on Thursday.