Even in the biggest or best wins, coaches usually have a “but” line. As in, “We were outstanding, but there were two or three possessions where we failed to close out on shooters.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins didn’t even try to use that line after Monday night’s 97-59 Big 12 Conference rout of Texas.
“It’s hard to find somebody who didn’t play well and we played everybody,” he told reporters.
Huggins hopes to recycle that quote Saturday when the No. 14 Mountaineers step out of the conference for the yearly SEC/Big 12 Challenge as Missouri visits WVU Coliseum in Morgantown.
Coming off a stunning 84-68 loss on Jan. 18 at Kansas State, the Mountaineers (15-3) took out 40 minutes’ worth of frustration on Texas. They canned 51.4 percent of their field-goal tries, outrebounded the Longhorns 53-25 and forced 18 turnovers while committing just eight.
“We were into it,” Huggins said. “We were denying the ball where they wanted to get the ball to, we did a much better job of containing dribble penetration and we pretty much limited them to one shot. We did everything that we didn’t do the other day.”
West Virginia earned sizable advantages of 27-4 in second-chance points and 24-1 in points off turnovers. It scored from every spot on the floor, with nine players chipping in between seven and 13 points. Freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe scored 13 and grabbed 11 rebounds, saving his biggest highlight for a tomahawk dunk after running the length of the floor to chase down a loose ball in the second half.
While the Mountaineers named the score on Texas, Missouri (9-9) was setting an NCAA record and losing another game. Despite breaking the mark for consecutive made free throws, the Tigers fell 66-64 Tuesday night at home to Texas A&M.
Missouri made all 31 foul shots in a Jan. 18 loss to Alabama, then surpassed Chris Paul’s 2004-05 Wake Forest team’s old mark of 50 straight makes at the line by converting its first 23 against the Aggies. But it couldn’t come close to equaling that kind of efficiency at the 3-point line, hitting only 9 of 35.
Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he felt most of the missed 3-balls were good looks.
“The 3-point shot looked wide open, so you’ve got to take that,” he said. “But I thought we did a better job late in the game attacking the rim because that was there. You have straight-line drives and opportunities at the rim.”
Dru Smith leads Missouri with 12.1 points per game, and is coming off an 18-point, eight-assist outing in the loss to Texas A&M. This will be the Tigers’ first game in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge since 2014-15.
–Field Level Media