Basketball

Game Thoughts: Texas 56 WVU 49

Javan Felix. (Will Gallagher/IT)
Javan Felix. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Game Thoughts by Tim Preston

MORGANTOWN — I don’t really know what I just watched.

Texas got outrebounded by 16 (including 24 offensive rebounds), they took 20 less field goal attempts, they had one player in double figures and an 0-fer from the floor from their best player and floor general…and won on the road at the number six team in the country, who, the last time they played at home, won by double digits against Kansas.

Sports are some weird ****, homey.

Offense:

It was kind of a thing of beauty.

Texas never looked rattled; never wavered. They stuck to their same game plan against West Virginia’s press all night long (Taylor or Lammert inbounding the ball…two of Felix/Davis/Taylor/Roach just below half court…streak to the free throw then split to a sideline with a recovery at the baseline or from help at half court…then Javan or Taylor bringing the ball up the floor) and it paid off. Texas only committed eight turnovers against the team that leads the country in forcing takeaways.

Then, when they did get into their half court sets, that same patience and purposeful delivery forced the Mountaineers to play at Texas’ tempo and put West Virginia into difficult spots having to execute against a set defense on the other end.

Texas struggled shooting the ball, but credit the Mountaineers for that as there are few teams that close out with the same kind of intensity and athleticism as WVU. It also hurt that Taylor never got going from the floor (0-8), but great credit to WVU on their quick defense against him and also great credit to Isaiah as he never forced the issue or went into the mode he sometimes does where he’s going to look for his shot no matter the situation.

Free throw shooting was good (after the 2-8 start when Ibeh was 0-4). Three point shooting was controlled and timely.

When you win against a top 10 team on the road, finding flaws seems a little pointless.

We’ll stick with that mindset tonight.

Defense:

Clearly, giving up 24 offensive rebounds on 43 missed shots isn’t good.

Actually, a 56% offensive rebounding against number is horrible. But, aside from that, Texas was fantastic on the defensive end.

The Longhorns took away WVU’s guards’ ability to penetrate by playing with great spatial awareness and early closeouts. They also did a solid job of rotating off screens away from the ball, which took WVU out of their comfort zone with cuts and open passing lanes around the perimeter.

Still, perhaps the best part of Texas’ defense was how well they retreated back and found shooters when West Virginia attempted to pick up the pace. So often under Barnes, his teams would be so focused on getting back to spots where they were supposed to be that they left offensive players open because that was somebody else’s responsibility. Not so tonight. Texas found a man and guarded that man until a reset was possible.
That’s how you guard against tempo.

The Longhorns were helped out by an abysmal free throw shooting night, but Texas didn’t put WVU on the line an egregious amount, and hats off to Texas for taking advantage of West Virginia’s struggles.

A Look at the Numbers:

WVU shot 31.1% (19-61) overall, 14.3% (3-21) from three, and 34.8% (8-23) from the line.

Texas shot 39% (16-41) overall, 40% (6-15) from three, and 60% (18-30) from the line.

West Virginia crushed on the glass (49-33) while both teams had 9 assists and Texas had fewer turnovers (8-11).

Star of the Game: Javan Felix

Javan’s scoring was good (aided by scoring Texas’ last 9 points of the game, including a huge three pointer to stretch the lead out to seven with under 90 seconds left). His passing was also solid, though nobody was really a playmaker for others in this game.

Nice, nice, nice.

But his steady, calming influence for Texas’ ability to handle WVU’s pressure was absolutely priceless tonight. Texas didn’t have to worry about getting into their half court looks. They also didn’t have to panic when Lammert went to the bench early in the first half after picking up his second foul.

Felix’s calm “I got this” demeanor was exactly what his team needed tonight. Awesome job of stepping up when the chance to win a big road game presented itself.

Well done, Javan (17 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and 1 turnover).

The Endgame:

Okay. A) it was one game; and B) it was just one damn game, but this win quite possibly means that Texas needs to find only five more regular season wins to have a chance at the NCAA Tournament (especially should they get through a round or more of the Big 12 tournament).

That’s huge for a coaching staff trying to round out their first recruiting class with the message that they have what it takes to be a big time program. It also makes the probability that Ridley not only returns but also has a chance to get enough games under his belt to make an eventual difference. Exciting to watch this team find ways to get things done, even with the young guys playing the kind of minutes they did against a top 10 team on the road.

Congrats, boys. Now, get the hell out of Morgantown as you’ve got a road date with another Top 10 team on Saturday.