No. 17 West Virginia looks to salvage split of Texas trip

NCAA Basketball
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When West Virginia is good, it’s really good. But consistency has been — and remains — one of the biggest issues surrounding the No. 17 Mountaineers as they head into Austin on Monday to square off against battered, but suddenly hot, Texas.

The Mountaineers hoped this latest visit to the Lone Star State would help them build some momentum for a solid spot in the NCAA Tournament, with games Saturday against TCU and then Monday at Texas. After all, West Virginia dominated those two teams in Morgantown earlier this season.

Instead, the Mountaineers laid an egg in Fort Worth in the first game of the trip, losing to TCU 67-60 in overtime to drop their fourth game in five outings. West Virginia has lost five straight games on the road since a win on Jan. 6 at Oklahoma State.

“I don’t know what to do,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins told reporters afterward. “I’m incredibly frustrated. We’ve lost to the bottom part of the league. You can’t do that. You just can’t do that. I really thought this could be a special year that all West Virginians could rally around. Maybe it still can be.”

Derek Culver paced the Mountaineers (19-8, 7-7 Big 12) against the Horned Frogs with 18 points and 12 rebounds, his sixth double-double this season. Taz Sherman added 16 for West Virginia but missed the shot that could have won the game for the Mountaineers at the end of regulation.

Texas heads home after an impressive 70-59 win at Kansas State on Saturday, its second straight victory with a makeshift lineup created by injuries to two starters.

The Longhorns (16-11, 6-8) got a career-high 26 points and a career-best five steals from guard Courtney Ramey in the win, while Matt Coleman III, who had missed Wednesday’s home win against TCU with a bruised right heel, returned to the starting lineup and registered 12 points. Andrew Jones added 12 points while hitting 3 of 5 from 3-point range.

Ramey had 21 of his game-high 26 points in the opening half (matching his previous career high), as the Longhorns built a 42-23 lead at the break. Texas held the Wildcats without a field goal for the final 7:40 of the first half and led by as many as 21 points midway through the second half.

“I think what got us going was the defensive end — the physicality,” Ramey told the Salina (Kan.) Journal. “When you’re physical on defense it just comes natural on offense. And hitting shots builds your mental attitude toward attacking.”

Texas swept the season series from the Wildcats for the first time since the 2015-16 campaign.

“Today we asked them to play with grit,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “It’s hard to come in here and play if you don’t have a level of grit to you. Courtney did a good job of setting the tone with that, and our other guys did a great job as well.”

It will take grit and a lot more for the Longhorns to beat West Virginia and continue their winning streak. The Mountaineers lambasted Texas 97-59 in the teams’ first meeting of the season, handing the Longhorns their worst loss of the Smart era.

–Field Level Media

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