Texas gave its fans a glimmer of hope, knocking off Texas Tech in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament and keeping the possibility of a magical run into March Madness alive.
But all hope was erased Thursday night. The Longhorns fell to West Virginia 63-53, and the team will be watching the NCAA tournament from home.
For the second consecutive game, Texas dug itself into an early hole. Turnovers and missed free throws by the Longhorns helped West Virginia jump out to a 15-5 lead just five minutes into the contest.
But the Longhorns showed their resilience once again. The team forced their own string of turnovers, and an and-one basket by senior guard Kendal Yancy pulled Texas to 15-11.
The score remained neck-and-neck for much of the half after Yancy’s big bucket.
With Texas trailing 22-17, freshman forward Jarrett Allen showcased why he’s one of the most exciting two-way players in the country.
Allen posterized a West Virginia defender on the offensive end and came up with a towering block on the other side of the court.
Freshman guard Andrew Jones and sophomore guard Eric Davis followed with back-to-back threes, and Texas took its first lead since the opening minutes.
The 23-22 lead would not last. The last seven minutes of the half saw Texas go cold from the field and the Mountaineers capitalized. West Virginia went on a 10-1 run to end the frame and took a 39-30 lead into the break.
Trailing entering the second period, the Longhorns started off playing hardly like a team with its season on the line. Texas committed a shot-clock violation on its first possession, and after several more poor offensive sequences, saw its deficit grow to 47-34.
But Texas has a habit of shaking off sloppy starts to halves. The Longhorns battled back, going on a 12-3 run to close the gap to 50-46 with 8:33 remaining in the game. Jones and Yancy both hit triples during the stretch, and freshman forward James Banks fired up the bench with a rim-shattering dunk.
Unlike in their victory against Texas Tech, the Longhorns were unable to finish off a second half rally. As soon as Texas creeped back to within striking distance, the Mountaineers responded with a decisive 7-0 run to put the game out of reach.
Fittingly, the issues that plagued the Longhorns all year were glaring in their final game of the season. The team shot an abysmal 35 percent from the field and turned the ball over at inopportune times. Texas finished with 14 turnovers compared to only 11 assists.
Jones finished as the high-point man for the burnt orange, tallying 13 points. Yancy was the only other player in double-digits, finishing with 11.
The loss finally puts an end to a disappointing season. The Longhorns came into the season with sky-high expectations, boasting a highly-touted recruiting class and a top-25 ranking. But things quickly unraveled, and the team finished with its worst record in 30 years.
Texas now has a long seven months until it can prove that this season was a fluke and not a sign of future mediocrity.