Justin K. Aller
The West Virginia men's basketball team sweep the season series against the Texas Longhorns in a characteristically ugly game in the Oliver Garden.
While the game in Austin against these two teams was an absolute disgrace to all that is Division I college basketball, the showing tonight wasn't exactly an improvement. The first half was hard to watch, almost cringe-worthy, as both teams were bleeding turnovers, missing shots, and refusing to execute whatsoever. As WVU was down by 7 with eight minutes left in the first half, Huggins found the "mystery Number 1 Super Buffet combo lineup of the week" that started clicking. By halftime, three 3's were drained along with Deniz and Jabarie layups creating a 17-5 run to finish off the first 20 minutes with WVU leading 32-25 in front of a mostly absent home crowd. (Note: Weather is really, really bad in Morgantown right now. As of the last time I was on the road at 7PM, power was out from Keglers to Boston Beanery including all street lights on Van Vooris/Patteson between the two locations.)
The Mountaineers came out after the break continuing with the same steam and some great minutes from Keaton Miles. After WVU pushed to their largest lead in the game of 11 with six minutes into the second half, the Longhorns started to chip away at the deficit to eventually take a two-point lead while going on a 16-3 run forcing multiple turnovers, bad shots, and offensive fouls. This forced the last eight minutes of the ball game to be both teams trading punches. The Mountaineers, while being killed on the boards during this stretch, made the shots they needed to make while the Longhorns could not get any to sink even with multiple chance possessions. This was ultimately UT's demise while WVU finished off the Longhorns last handful of chances with the patented Bob Huggins late game 1-3-1 defense. Texas could only settle for contested threes and gave the ball away in critical moments to seal the Mountaineer victory.
Three big performances can be credited to this much-needed victory with Deniz Kilicli going 6-of-8 with 14 points, Jabarie Hinds also scoring 14, and Eron Harris finishing with 13. Plenty of things can be said about all three of these players as Deniz continues to build on a late season boost in performance, Jabarie commanding the court, and Harris successfully growing into the star role that will be needed throughout his career for the gold and blue.
The Mountaineers play again Saturday to try to make it three consecutive conference wins against the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs. Let's hope that Deniz keeps up this boost in form and we get to see more quality minutes from Keaton Miles. March is still a possibility, people.