Morgantown, West Virginia — West Virginia has had more than its fair share of struggles since the Big 12 Conference game, which played a big role in four of the Mountaineers’ five losses in their first six league games.
West Virginia has defied the odds lately, closing strongly on Wednesday with a win over No. 14 TCU.
However, looking to carry that momentum into Saturday’s game against No. 7 Texas, the Mountaineers’ late-game issues resurfaced. The Longhorns scored 19 points from standout guard Marcus Carr in the second half and outscored West Virginia 15-9 with 6:58 left in the final 69-61 victory at WVU Stadium.
“There are some issues that I can’t just talk about,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said, alluding to the larger issues his team is struggling with. “We had chances, but we had chances in other games we lost. We didn’t take our chances.”
The Mountaineers (11-8, 1-6) after James Okonkwo scored in the paint with 7:30 left cut the Texas (16-3, 5-2) lead to 54-52. ) made just one field goal the rest of the game. It was Kedrian Johnson’s mid-range jumper with 4:23 left to cut WVU to 60-55.
Johnson, who scored WVU’s final nine points after the Longhorns’ Sir’Jabari Rice was called for a technical foul, missed two free throws with 7:50 left. Trailing 52-50 at the time, the Mountaineers had never led and haven’t even since.
“You can’t do it all, but the mistakes were on me,” Johnson said.
Johnson, however, also made all five of his free throw attempts in 36 seconds to help WVU close a 61-56 deficit to 63-61 with 2:39 left.
At 2:20, Carr made two free throws of his own, Johnson missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, and the Mountaineers grabbed an offensive rebound and called a timeout. After that timeout, however, WV struggled to get the ball inbounds, Eric Stevenson’s pass to Trey Mitchell resulted in a jump ball, and the possession arrows went in Texas’ favor. Carl then made two free throws and UT took a 67-61 lead with 1:36 left in the game.
While West Virginia struggled to get the ball in bounds the rest of the game, there were no more serious mishaps than that one.
“I didn’t stop my guy,” Mitchell said. “That was my misreading. I take full responsibility for that.”
West Virginia also failed to score with the remaining three possessions, as Johnson flipped the ball over and then missed a 3-pointer before Seth Wilson also missed a long shot.
“If you want to formulate a recipe for failure, look back at our last 10 minutes,” Huggins said.
The Mountaineers led 28-26 at halftime, thanks in large part to forcing nine turnovers from Texas and allowing Carr to score four points on 2-of-6 shooting. WVU went 10-for-24 from the field in the first 20 minutes, had turnover problems of its own, and had 10 field goal attempts by halftime, including three each by Johnson and Mitchell.
With 2:59 left in the second half, Wilson hit a 3-pointer to give the Mountaineers the biggest lead, 38-33, but Texas later tied with 1:15 on a Dylan Disu dunk.
West Virginia never led the rest of the way, even though the games were tied at 40, 42 and 44. After Disu’s second chance put Texas back in the lead, Carr hit a 3-pointer to make it 49-44 with 9:35 to play.
“All year, Marcus let the game come to him,” Texas interim coach Rodney Terry said. “He didn’t have to force it. We had some good reads at the start of the first half, and once he saw the ball go through the basket, it opened up a lot of space for him to play that end of the court.” Different.”
The Mountaineers responded with a 3-pointer from Johnson before Disu made a regular 3-point play.
Mitchell of Texas hit a 3-pointer with 7:53 left to cut Texas’ lead to 52-50, but then Johnson missed a free throw and the Mountaineers continued in a back-to-back loss to The Longhorns and No. 5 can’t make it through the final six games of the tough series.
“I know Texas likes to take pride in its defense, but the reality is we’re pick and choose when we want to play together,” Mitchell said. “We pick and choose when we want to pass the ball, screen for teammates and open up space. We have to start sharing the ball more and be consistent. We see the success of it early on, and then we stray away it.”
Carr scored a game-high 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
“We just didn’t do it right,” Hudgens said. “He’s a right-handed guy who likes to go right, we let him go right. He’s a guy you want to push to the bottom line so you can try to swallow him with size, we let him go to him Where we wanted to go. Everything we did was the exact opposite of what we planned and trained, training as much as possible with a day off.”
Disu scored 13 points and Christian Bishop and Tyrese Hunter each scored 11 in the win. Bishop also had a team-high seven rebounds, though West Virginia maintained a 29-26 advantage in rebounding.
“It was a great team win, a lot of grit and determination in the crucial moments to get us through the game,” Terry said.
Johnson scored a career-high 22 points on 6-for-9 shooting with six turnovers. Mitchell had 12 points and eight rebounds, although he had five turnovers and went 4 for 11 from the field.
“I just wanted to do what I could to help us win,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, I was 4-for-11 and had five turnovers.
Guard Jotusant, who averaged more than 10 points per game, made three fouls and scored three points in less than 11 minutes of playing. Subsequently, Huggins accepted the accusation that Tucson lacked playing time.
“It’s 100 percent my fault,” Hudgens said. “Joe deserves more playing time. Some of our players don’t deserve and don’t earn playing time.”
The fifth-year college basketball duo of Stevenson and Emmitt Matthews Jr. struggled in defeat, combining for 11 points on 3-for-15 shooting.
After halftime, the Mountaineers were just 10 of 28 from the field and 20 of 52 from the field while turning the score 20 times, with Texas taking 13 shots.
“It’s a big deal for us,” Terry said. “We did a better job in the second half with four turnovers and changed the game in that regard. We did a better job finishing possessions.”
(Bob Huggins post-match press conference)