We’ve hit the point where it’s fair to say that on any given night, anyone in the Big 12 can be beat.
Just look at the result in Morgantown on Wednesday.
Texas went into WVU Coliseum in front of 14,000 raucous fans and defeated West Virginia 56-49 by playing really solid ball-control offense and getting some timely shooting from deep. Javan Felix led the way with 17 points, as the Longhorns survived an onslaught of second-chance opportunities from the Mountaineers that made the field-goal attempts mark an incredibly lopsided 61-to-41 in favor of Bob Huggins’ group.
The problem for West Virginia was it just simply couldn’t hit the bottom of the hoop from anywhere on the floor. The Mountaineers shot 31 percent from the field, 14 percent from behind the 3-point line, and only 35 percent from the free-throw line. It’s hard to win games that way, even when you’re known for grinding out ugly victories.
And really, the Mountaineers have been flirting with these kinds of performances all season. They are now 316th in 3-point percentage and and 301st in free-throw percentage nationally. This is not a team that gets by with its offensive prowess. It gets by with one of the best defenses in the country, and by creating extra shots through offensive rebounds and turnovers.
Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, the turnovers just never came. Coming into the game, the fewest turnovers they had forced in a game was 14. But against Texas, they were only able to force eight as Isaiah Taylor and Felix combined to break the press and slow things down for Texas. This one never really was played at the frenetic, out-of-control pace that West Virginia wants to force upon its opponents, and that’s a testament to how Shaka Smart and his coaching staff prepared the group.
Texas now has a pretty interesting résumé. The losses to TCU and Washington don’t look great, but 12-6 with wins over No. 2 North Carolina, No. 6 West Virginia and No. 19 Iowa State are strong feathers in their cap that would likely have them on the right side of the bubble right now if the NCAA Tournament started tomorrow. Given that his team just lost one of its most important pieces in Cameron Ridley, Smart deserves a lot of credit for keeping this group together and guiding them to a three-game win streak.
The reward for that? A matchup with Kansas at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
But that’s just the way it goes in the Big 12 this season.