Horns fall to WVU on the road

While the Longhorns (10-12, 2-7) brought the effort with them on the road this time, it was the same story on a different day against West Virginia (11-11, 4-5). Texas held a lead at one point early in the game, got really sluggish on offense, came all the way back to take a two-point lead late in the second half, and then turned the basketball over and struggled too much down the stretch on offense. WVU, despite fouling Sheldon McClellan twice on three-point shots with under 15 seconds left, held on to beat the Horns 60-58. Here are 10 thoughts after the game:
1) After Julien Lewis knocked down a three-pointer with 4:38 left to give Texas a 55-54 lead, it failed to score a field goal the rest of the game, and managed just four points the rest of the way, which came at the free throw line after West Virginia managed to foul McClellan attempting a trey twice in the final seconds.
Once Javan Felix (12 points, seven assists) got hot from the floor thanks to his mid-range game off the pick-and-roll, WVU made the adjustment to start trapping him when he was in a pick-and-roll situation. Then, the Mountaineers went to a 1-3-1 zone down the stretch, and it left the Longhorns totally befuddled.
While Rick Barnes did do things at times like getting the big man to slip the screen from the pick-and-roll, the Longhorns didn't adjust or execute against the change in defense down the stretch. Instead, Demarcus Holland, who actually played pretty well, was left shooting three-pointers or contested jumpers at the end of the shot clock.
2) If you're a Texas fan looking for some positives, the Longhorns limited West Virginia to just six offensive rebounds while they racked up 17 on their own. And there were stretches when Texas turned over WVU (16 total) often, which led to some fast break points against a team that hardly ever turns it over. Also, Texas' effort and fight this game was much better than the last time it played a road game.
3) It was an up-and-down game for McClellan. On one hand, I think he showed some of his best effort of the year on the glass (eight rebounds). On the other hand, his catch-and-shoot skills were poor including multiple times when he was fading away from the rim instead of squaring himself up. He led UT with 14 points, but shot just 2-of-10 from the floor.
4) Holland's defense was extremely disruptive as the freshman grabbed three steals and five rebounds. His only bucket came when he pump faked a defender at the perimeter and got all the way to the rim for a dunk. That's what he needs to try to do on offense - attack. Again, while he has the confidence to fire it when he's open, he's just not a good enough shooter right now to take that shot early in the shot clock. It became too easy for WVU to trap Felix against a screen up top and leave Holland open when the two were together on the floor.
5) Once again, the Horns let West Virginia get looks at the rim too often and put them on the free throw line too often. WVU attempted just 39 field goal attempts all game, but hit on 20-of-29 free throw attempts. Texas' defense got spread out too often which allowed for open looks to bigs in the paint and mid-range jumpers.
6) A game after the big men really made an impact for Texas, I didn't think it got much from Connor Lammert, Prince Ibeh, and Cameron Ridley. Jaylen Bond had a couple of moments when he stood out, and Ioannis Papapetrou flashed at times. But Texas needs more than 15 points in the paint, and that includes the guards as well.
By the way, film session for anyone that defended Deniz Kilici won't be fun. A guy that is a 43-percent shooter from the floor (as a big man) did whatever he wanted with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
7) Speaking of Ridley, I can't figure out what Texas is doing with him. The freshman played just eight minutes tonight after starting the game and the second half. I understand the idea of going small or sticking with something that is working at the time, but your most talented big man probably needs more than eight minutes.
8) Only three Texas players attempted a free throw, and only McClellan attempted more than two. If you take away the two silly fouls committed by WVU at the end of the game, the Horns would have attempted just 10 free throws. That's not going to win you games when you're a team that shoots under 40 percent most nights.
9) Tonight would have been a good night for Myck Kabongo to make an impact late. You can't really double a guy that fast and talented off a pick-and-roll. He'll return after just one more game.
10) Barnes' woes in close games continue. While the players need to execute and make plays down the stretch, you shouldn't be swept in the regular season by a team as bad as West Virginia because it finds a way to win close games down the stretch and you don't.