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WVU rallies from 19-point deficit to stun Longhorns

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Facing a 19-point deficit with 18 minutes and 22 seconds to go in the game, West Virginia’s Kardiac Kids put together another incredible rally against a Texas team that had shot 70 percent against in the first half and then survived two great looks at the basket from the Longhorns to pull out an 84-82 victory in Austin.

As it was, it became a matter of turnabout is fair play, for Texas had won the season’s first meeting between the two teams in Morgantown when Andrew Jones hit a 3-point goal from the corner with 1.6 seconds to play to win the game.

This time, with the clock ticking off its final seconds, Texas ran a nifty play that got Jones open behind the 3-point line. As the ball left his hand he hollered “Game!”, as if calling his shot.

“Everyone says that if they get a shot at a game-winner,” said WVU’s Emmitt Matthews Jr. “It looked good to me.”

But beating a team on a buzzer-beater twice in one season is too much to ask and the ball rimmed the basket and came out, knocked out of bounds under the Texas basket. The officials checked the video and put 0.3 seconds on the clock, which meant that the only basket that would count would be a tip-in.

Again Texas ran a good play, lobbing to 6-10 Jerico Sims under the basket with the much shorter Deuce McBride on him.

Sims had a straight in tip but it came up short as McBride challenged him as best he could, perhaps making contact?

“They didn’t call it. I guess I didn’t foul him,” McBride said with a smile later.

To anyone who watched the first half as Texas shot layup after layup, scoring 53 points, they never would have imaged that WVU could come away with its fifth straight Big 12 road victory.

But things changed at halftime, in part because of the conversation — a one-way conversation — Huggins had with his team.

“He laid into us,” McBride said. “He should have.”

Why did it work?

“They didn’t want hear a postgame speech like the halftime speech, I guess,” Huggins joked.

The truth was that an number of factors came into the comeback.

First, Huggins changed his defense to what looked like a matchup zone with man-to-man principles that took Texas out of a zone of its own ... its comfort zone.

“Honestly, we were just trying to run at them and play a lot faster,” McBride said “When you are down you can’t let them play their game.”

“We’ve been spending time on matchups for a while here,” Huggins said. “It’s personnel driven. Like a lot of things, you don’t want bad shooters to shoot and you don’t want bad defenders to defend. You want guys doing what they do well.”

And they did, holding Texas to 29 second half points.

Then Sean McNeil, who rode the bench for much of the first half with two fouls, put together another of his patented hot streaks from outside, finishing with 16 points, second to McBride’s 17 as all five Mountaineer starters reached double figures.

Texas also contributed greatly to the comeback as during a time out while leading by 17 points, Jones and Courtney Ramey nearly came to blows on the bench, having to be restrained by teammates. Jones had lost his man defensively on the previous possession and Ramey was shouting at him down the court, leading to the near altercation.

Texas never was the same after that.

While Texas was coming apart, WVU was coming together.

“We came together,” McBride said. “Our message has been that we have to stay together.”

It was a scrappy, physical game, especially in the second half with Emmitt Matthews Jr. letting his body fly all over the court in pursuit of loose balls while also fighting through picks.

“The last time we played them things didn’t pan out how we wanted,” Matthews said. “I put that game on myself personally missing two free throws that potentially could have sealed the game, so I was going after every loose ball.”

There was one other play that became crucial down the stretch and that came when Sherman posted up the Texas high scorer Ramey, who had four fouls at the time, and got him off his feet and drew foul No. 5, so he wasn’t available at the very end.

“Taz has a good understanding of what he’s supposed to do,” Huggins said of the play. “He’s a guy who we can put into the lane and not have him shoot a fadeaway off his back foot. We feel comfortable with him in the post.”