MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia made just enough plays down the stretch to hold off Texas, 60-58, Monday night at the WVU Coliseum in snowy Morgantown, W.Va.
A much-smaller-than-expected crowd of 4,966 watched another down-to-the-wire game between these two teams, the four previous games having been decided by four points or less, including a four-point overtime win by the Mountaineers last month in Austin.
“I thought that was a good team effort,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
Tonight, West Virginia overcame a long scoring drought in the second half that enabled Texas to go on a 16-3 run to take a 49-47 lead with 8:21 left, and the Longhorns had a 54-53 lead inside of five minutes remaining after a Julien Lewis 3.
Eron Harris answered Lewis’ bomb with a tough, pull-up jumper, and then Deniz Kilicli scored a three-point play when he scored close and was fouled by Ioannis Papapetrou with 3:35 remaining. Kilicli made the free throw to put the Mountaineers ahead by four, 58-54.
The score remained that way until 25 seconds left when Harris managed to convert one of two from the line to make it a five-point game, 59-54.
Then, the Mountaineers did their best to try and squander their lead by fouling Texas 3-point shooters twice– the first coming with 12 seconds left when Kilicli got a piece of Sheldon McClellan on his 3-point shot attempt. McClellan was only able to hit two of three.
On the other end, Aaric Murray was fouled with 10 seconds left by DeMarcus Holland and Murray hit the second one to give West Virginia a four-point lead.
Once again, though, the Mountaineers fouled a Longhorn 3-point shooter when Murray was whistled for running into McClellan with 0.7 seconds left.
McClellan made his first two free throws, and after a 30-second timeout called by Texas coach Rick Barnes, he purposely missed his second attempt to try and get a quick tip-in basket to tie the game. However, McClellan’s missed shot was pulled down by Murray as the horn sounded.
“We did some dumb things at the end,” said Huggins. “We’ll work on that. That’s something that’s kind of a heat-of-the-moment thing but we’ll work on it.”
Texas (10-12, 2-7), still winless in six tries on the road, has made a habit out of losing close games this year. The Longhorns are now 1-7 in games decided by six points or less, and in five of those seven losses, Texas has had the lead within the final three minutes of the game. Tonight, the Longhorns last led with 4:37 to go.
West Virginia has won back-to-back Big 12 games for the first time this season and now evens its season record at 11-11. WVU, 4-5 in the Big 12, also inches closer to a four-team logjam of Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor for third place in the league standings with 5-3 records.
“After this season, I promised myself I will never be unhappy with a win. I’m happy we won and we’re back at .500,” said Huggins. “There’s a lot of folks with three losses and we just need to put another one on them and get back into this thing.”
Jabarie Hinds and Kilicli scored 14 for the Mountaineers, while Harris contributed 13, although he made just 3 of 10 from the floor.
“I thought Deniz was terrific,” said Huggins. “That’s the Deniz that all of us have kind of been craving for. I thought he was very, very active and I thought he did a very good job.”
Overall, West Virginia shot 46.2 percent against a Texas defense that came into tonight’s game ranked fourth in the country by allowing opposing teams to shoot just 36 percent.
“We’re starting to make some shots,” said Huggins.
Texas got 14 from McClellan and 12 points from Javan Felix.
The Longhorns made just 21 of 60 from the floor, including 5 of 20 from 3, and hit 11 of 16 from the line.
West Virginia made 20 of its 20 free throw attempts.
“The free throws kept us in it, but when you put that much pressure on the rim you ought to be able to get to the foul line,” said Huggins. “We have worked really hard with these guys on that.”
The two teams combined for 38 fouls and 31 turnovers; Texas had a 36-29 advantage on the glass.
The Mountaineers now have the rest of the week off before traveling to Ft. Worth to face TCU on Saturday afternoon in a Big 12 Network game that will tipoff at 4 p.m. The Horned Frogs, winless in eight conference games so far this season, will play host to Kansas on Wednesday night.