West Virginia was dead in the water with three and a half minutes left in tonight’s game against Texas, the Longhorns' No. 1-ranked defense sticking to the Mountaineer shooters like glue all game long.
After a Johnathan Holmes follow-up basket gave Texas a 47-37 lead with 3:35 remaining, all that was left to do was run out the clock on another home-opening Big 12 victory for the Longhorns.
But the Mountaineers had other ideas. Forward Kevin Noreen banged in a 3, Aaric Murray knocked down a short jumper, Jabarie Hinds hit another 3 and Gary Browne’s steal and driving layup turned a 10-point deficit into a tie game with 1:27 remaining in a contest that West Virginia eventually pulled out in overtime, 57-53.
"I thought (Noreen's 3) gave us a big lift in the game," said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
That West Virginia won despite shooting just 30.6 percent overall and only 15 percent from 3 reaffirms a message Huggins tried to deliver to his young basketball team during Saturday’s 10-point loss to Oklahoma – just because you miss the first shot doesn’t mean you will miss the second or the third shot … if you can get them.
On Saturday, Oklahoma out-hustled West Virginia for every loose ball and 50-50 rebound down the stretch. Tonight, it was West Virginia who got them.
"It gets down to toughness," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "West Virginia hung around. You have to give them credit."
"I'm proud of our guys," added Huggins. "We had opportunities to pack it in but didn't, we got down 12 due to a hard time scoring. Hopefully this gets us back to being my team. They were not my team before because they did not compete the way we need to compete."
At one point in overtime, the Mountaineers, leading 54-52, grabbed three straight offensive rebounds off of missed shots that burned nearly a minute and a half off the clock.
And later, when West Virginia was leading 54-53, Eron Harris attempted a long 3-point well beyond the top of the key that clanked off the rim and was headed out of bounds. However, a hustling Dominique Rutledge was able to track the ball down along the baseline and flip it behind his back to Gary Browne toward the middle of the court.
There, Browne was able to dribble six seconds off the clock before he was fouled by Texas’ Julien Lewis. But Browne only made one of two from the line to make the score 55-53 - which gave Texas an opportunity to come down the floor and either tie it with a 2 or win it with a 3.
In regulation, after Harris drilled a wide open 3 from the corner to give West Virginia a 50-47 lead with only 20 seconds left, Barnes called timeout to draw up a play that eventually led to Holmes converting a contested 3 from the corner with four seconds left to send the game into overtime.
This time, Barnes elected to play on and as Ioannis Papapetrou tried to get the ball across the court for a potential 3-point shot, Murray stepped in front of Papapetrou’s pass and intercepted the basketball. Murray was fouled by Sheldon McClellan with six seconds to go and he stepped up to the line and made both free throws to put the game on ice.
The Longhorns, now 8-7, 0-2, will look back at this one and wonder how they let it slip away. At one point, Texas led by as many as 13 points with 8:37 left as West Virginia missed shot after shot.
But Texas wasn’t much better, hitting 19 of 55 for 34.5 percent overall and making only 23.5 percent from 3. The Longhorns also bricked 14 of 25 from the free throw line.
"It was a hard-fought game," said Barnes. "It was disappointing that when it was winning time, they wanted the game more than we did."
Murray led the Mountaineers with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Hinds was the only other West Virginia player to reach double figures with 11. Kevin Noreen grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds for West Virginia.
"Not only did he shoot 3s but he got 13 rebounds tonight - that is pretty good for a guy that can't jump over a phone book," said Huggins.
Holmes scored 12 and Felix added 11 for the Longhorns.
West Virginia had a 45-39 advantage on the glass and produced 11 steals that led to nine Mountaineer points.
There were four lead changes and three ties. Tonight's victory was West Virginia's first-ever in Big 12 play; the Mountaineer women also knocked off Texas earlier tonight in Morgantown for their first conference win in school history.
West Virginia improves to 8-6, 1-1 with Kansas State on the horizon Saturday at the Coliseum. That game will tipoff at 1:30 p.m. and will be televised by the Big 12 Network.