This is the new normal in college basketball. Just get used to it.
The Texas Longhorns knocked off No. 6 West Virginia on Wednesday 56-49 at WVU Coliseum during what has become an upset-oriented week of hoops. No. 11 Michigan State, ranked No. 4 before the latest poll, and No. 13 Virginia lost Sunday. No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 20 Duke lost Monday. No. 3 Kansas and No. 5 Xavier lost Tuesday. And the Spartans lost again Wednesday.
As for the Longhorns, Javan Felix led the way with 17 points Wednesday, but it was the defense that helped them register the upset in Morgantown. West Virginia shot only 31.1 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from three-point range, as the Texas defenders consistently pressured the shooters on the outside.
ESPN Stats & Info noted that it has been quite some time since Texas managed such a monumental road win:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Texas defeats No. 6 West Virginia Longhorns first road win as an unranked team over an AP-Top 10 opponent since 3/5/05 at No. 8 Oklahoma St1/21/2016, 2:26:22 AM
Matt Norlander of CBS Sports pointed to Texas' talent level after the win:
Matt Norlander @MattNorlander
Texas is inconsistent but dangerous. Longhorns just won at No. 6 West Virginia and have beaten UNC and Iowa State, too. Intriguing group.1/21/2016, 2:10:31 AM
Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated had an answer for those wondering about yet another upset following the Longhorns' victory:
Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops
It's not that there are no good teams, but there are very few with a substantial margin for error. Low energy + bad luck = lose to anyone.1/21/2016, 1:39:05 AM
Felix was the only Texas player to hit more than one three-pointer, and he consistently created contact by driving the lane. He was 7-of-8 from the charity stripe and even notched two steals as a perimeter defender.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins probably wasn't surprised given his pregame comments, per Greg Madia of WVSports.com:
Greg Madia @Madia_DNRSports
Bob Huggins yesterday: “I don’t think (Javan) Felix has ever had a bad game against us."1/21/2016, 2:05:35 AM
Eric Bossi of Rivals.com also weighed in on the guard's performance:
Eric Bossi @ebosshoops
Terrific performance out of Javan Felix. Really thought Texas should have gone with Roach, but Felix has been proper call. Props to him.1/21/2016, 2:05:48 AM
Even with Felix leading the way, it was a defensive slugfest that featured just 105 points between the two teams. Every possession was magnified as a result, and Texas turned the ball over only eight times. Felix discussed the importance of the low turnover number, per Allan Taylor of WVMetroNews.com:
Allan Taylor @AllanTaylorWVU
Javan Felix on #WVU forcing only 8 turnovers: "We knew as guards if we kept our poise we'd be successful."1/21/2016, 2:28:57 AM
The Longhorns built a 28-25 halftime lead behind that ball control, but the Mountaineers went on a 7-0 run in the second half to tie the game at 42 with six minutes, 19 seconds remaining. It looked as if the home team would prevail, but Felix scored all nine of Texas' points in the final three minutes, four of which came from the free-throw line, and clinched the victory.
He also drilled a critical shot with the game hanging in the balance, which the Big 12 passed along:
Big 12 Conference @Big12Conference
#Big12MBB: A big shot from Javan Felix helps lift @TexasMBB to victory over West Virginia. https://t.co/bJdvAX4squ1/21/2016, 2:12:42 AM
His effort helped Texas overcome double-doubles from Jonathan Holton (10 points and 14 rebounds) and Devin Williams (11 points and 11 rebounds), but the home team's showing on the free-throw line also played a factor. In all, the Mountaineers were a dismal 8-of-23 from the charity stripe, much to the chagrin of the fans in attendance.
Shooting performances like that make it nearly impossible to win in any league, let alone in the loaded Big 12.
Wednesday represented a big win, but Texas is still 12-6 and very much on the bubble. To their credit, the Longhorns hold key victories over North Carolina, Iowa State and now West Virginia, and they have an opportunity to land another one against the 11-time defending Big 12 champion Kansas Jayhawks Saturday.
That contest takes place in Allen Fieldhouse, so Texas will be forgiven if it comes up short. However, three of the four following games come against unranked foes, so the Longhorns have the chance to rack up some much-needed wins with Selection Sunday approaching.
As for West Virginia, it is still right in the thick of the Big 12 race even with Wednesday’s loss. The Mountaineers have dropped two straight after their upset of Kansas but get the chance to regroup against three unranked teams (Texas Tech, Kansas State and Florida) before a brutal three-game stretch against Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas.
Bob Huggins’ squad needs to take care of business in the winnable contests to ensure those marquee games are still important in February.
With his team in the Top 10 after its win over Kansas, Huggins attempted to diagnose the recent issues, per Taylor: “Success, sometimes for some people, is hard to handle.”
The free-throw shooting was hard for West Virginia fans to handle, and Elijah Macon offered his cure, per Taylor: “Shoot a thousand a day.”
As for Texas, coach Shaka Smart remarked on the victory, per Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman: “Our guys really answered the bell tonight. Shows what we really have inside of us.”
If the Longhorns continue to show what they did Wednesday, they will certainly be in the NCAA tournament come March.
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