AUSTIN, Texas —
After nearly two hours of watching Texas score in just about every way possible from all over the court, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins slumped into his seat and put his hand on his chin.
His challenge was to explain how a team that had looked ready to be a force over the second half of the Big 12 schedule could appear so helpless against the 19th-ranked Longhorns in an 88-71 loss Saturday night.
“We couldn’t guard. Couldn’t, didn’t, wouldn’t. Something,” Huggins said. “You can’t let people shoot that well, especially when you’re not making shots.”
Javan Felix scored 18 points and the Longhorns put five players in double figures. Texas shot nearly 60 percent for the game, outrebounded West Virginia 41-26 and dunked eight times in a romp that kept the Longhorns a game off the lead in the chase for the Big 12 title.
Cameron Ridley scored 17 points and was a force on defense with three of Texas’ five blocks, including two in the final minute of the first half. Jonathan Holmes, the Longhorns’ leading scorer, had 11 points in his return after missing a game with a knee injury.
Eron Harris scored 21 points for West Virginia (15-11, 7-6), which had surged up the league standings by winning four of five.
“We have to be more resilient,” Huggins said. “When things don’t go your way, you don’t stop playing, you play harder. I said a lot of things (in the locker room), most of which probably ought to stay in there.”
Texas (20-5, 9-3) reached 20 wins for the 14th time in 16 seasons under coach Rick Barnes. This might have been the most significant, though, considering the Longhorns’ dramatic turnaround from last season’s 16-18 finish that left Texas out of the NCAA tournament for the first time in 15 years.
And by beating West Virginia, the Longhorns stayed just a game behind conference leader Kansas, with games against Iowa State and the Jayhawks next week.
Texas shot 61 percent in the first half, and Felix and Holmes both had 10 points by halftime. The Longhorns’ final shooting mark of 58 percent was just below the school record of 59 percent for a Big 12 game.
“It’s one of the best games we’ve had moving the ball,” said Texas guard Demarcus Holland, who had 11 points and seven assists with point guard Isaiah Taylor playing just 25 minutes because of foul trouble.
Even with those offensive fireworks, Texas controlled the game early behind a defense that created steals on the perimeter and all but locked down the lane behind Ridley’s big body.
Holland, who blew a layup off a turnover in the opening seconds, converted two layups off steals in a 17-2 Texas run that put the Longhorns up 28-16 when Felix made his first two 3-pointers. Ridley’s two blocks in the final minute sent the Longhorns into the break leading by 11.
West Virginia showed a hint of a rally when the Mountaineers scored five straight points to start the second half. A 3-pointer by Harris trimmed the Texas lead to six before the Longhorns responded with an 8-0 run.
Felix made another 3-pointer and Prince Ibeh had two dunks, both coming on quick catch-and-jumps that left his defender flat-footed, to put the Longhorns ahead 61-46 with 12:14 to play.
Texas hasn’t lost at home since the Big 12 opener against Oklahoma.
“If you’re trying to win a Big 12 championship, you’ve got to win your home games because the road is so tough,” Holmes said.
WEST VIRGINIA (15-11)
Dibo 0-3 2-3 2, Williams 1-5 0-0 2, Staten 6-16 2-5 14, Harris 5-15 9-10 21, Henderson 4-6 1-1 10, Adrian 4-9 0-0 12, Browne 3-4 3-4 10, Watkins 0-0 0-2 0, Noreen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-58 17-25 71.
Holmes 4-6 3-4 11, Taylor 4-6 6-6 14, Ridley 6-8 5-10 17, Holland 5-9 1-2 11, Felix 7-16 0-0 18, Yancy 1-1 1-2 3, Croaker 0-0 0-0 0, Lammert 2-3 0-0 4, Walker 2-5 2-2 6, Ibeh 2-3 0-1 4. Totals 33-57 18-27 88.
Halftime—Texas 40-29. 3-Point Goals—West Virginia 8-23 (Adrian 4-9, Harris 2-6, Browne 1-2, Henderson 1-3, Dibo 0-3), Texas 4-13 (Felix 4-10, Holmes 0-1, Walker 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—West Virginia 26 (Staten 6), Texas 41 (Lammert 8). Assists—West Virginia 9 (Staten 7), Texas 18 (Holland 7). Total Fouls—West Virginia 18, Texas 18. A—14,735.