MORGANTOWN — They came armed with their witty “Horns Down” foam fingers and as an extra bonus, the West Virginia student section even constructed theirs to light up as the WVU Coliseum went dark.
And then Texas connected on nine 3-pointers, each one a dagger that only multiplied a lead that continued to grow without end.
It didn’t take much to see in this one that it wasn’t the Longhorns that were down. In what ended up as another second-half meltdown, West Virginia put up little fight in its 75-53 defeat against Texas, it’s second consecutive double-figure loss for the Mountaineers (10-14, 2-9 Big 12) and their fifth double-figure loss in their last six games.
“It was kind of like a domino effect,” West Virginia guard Chase Harler said. “One bad thing just led to another. That’s when good teams really lock in on defense and we’re still struggling to do that. In order for us to turn this around, we have to buy in on defense. When we get in a hole, we have to stick together and keep competing.”
And while the West Virginia players had to deal with the pain and frustration of yet another blowout loss, the WVU fans quickly chose not to.
A reported crowd of 12,815 left in droves midway through the second half. At one point, scoreboard cameras featured country music star Cole Swindell sitting courtside. He stood up and raised his arms in an attempt to fire up the home crowd, but with 6:59 remaining, there were few left to fire up. Minutes later, Swindell, too, had exited.
What was left was yet another group of West Virginia players making silly mistakes, like losing the grip on the ball and losing it out of bounds after securing a rebound or making a no-look pass to a teammate, who wasn’t looking either.
“I shouldn’t say this, but the reality is they are more talented than we are, and so we have to do things right,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “We didn’t do things right. When you aren’t as talented as other people and you don’t do things right, it’s not going to be a good outcome for you.”
When it was all said and done, Texas made it look rather easy with eight dunks and by shooting 53.1 percent (17 of 32) in the second half that saw the Longhorns outscore WVU, 41-25. Freshman guard Courtney Ramey, who came into the game averaging 6.6 points, tied his career-high with 19 points and Kerwin Roach III added 14, his 10th consecutive game scoring in double figures. Both players had exited well before it was over.
“I want them to really understand why we won convincingly,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “The hardest thing is putting it in a bottle and bringing it back out when the next game comes. But, we have to keep getting better. I want them to feel good about winning. Losing certainly sucks.”
The Mountaineers have known that feeling all too well this season.
Despite going scoreless over the first four minutes of the game, the Mountaineers did not find themselves out of the game early, as neither team stood out offensively. West Virginia finished 9 of 28 shooting in the first half — the same amount of field goals it had the entire game in Monday’s loss at Texas Tech — but the Longhorns (14-10, 6-5) never pulled away.
Texas was held to 12 of 32 from the field in the first half, but its 34-28 halftime lead was built on shooting 6 of 12 from 3-point range.
Any hope of a second-half run was quickly ended with a Texas 10-1 run to start the second half that saw both Kerwin Roach III and Jaxon Hayes score on dunks and Courtney Ramey added a wide open 3-pointer for a 44-29 lead. By the time Jase Febres connected on the Longhorns’ eighth three of the game with 13:47 left, Texas had a 51-35 lead, forcing Huggins to call a timeout.
As for what went wrong with West Virginia, well, it’s a story written several times already this year.
To go along with a lack of defense, the Mountaineers struggled offensively. They were held to just 18 of 51 from the floor (35.3 percent) and was just 3 of 16 (18.8 percent) from 3-point range. Texas scored 40 points in the paint and held a 42-34 rebounding advantage, including a 16-11 edge in offensive rebounds.
The Mountaineers were led by Esa Ahmad’s 14 points and six rebounds. He shot 6 of 15 from the floor, but scored just six points in the second half. Derek Culver scored seven points and added 11 rebounds.