Longhorns’ comeback efforts fall short against West Virginia

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

Twenty-two days ago, the Texas Longhorns made a trip to Morgantown over winter break. Naomi Davenport, West Virginia’s leading scorer, dropped a cool 26 points, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to overcome the stellar guard play of Sug Sutton, Destiny Littleton and Danni Williams.

Monday night at the Frank Erwin Center, the script was flipped in Texas’ 64-58 loss to West Virginia.    

The game tipped the same way most other Texas games did season: sloppy play in the opening minutes, hectic scrambling around the court and a lucky play here or there to somehow keep it interesting.

Then, Tynice Martin happened.

Texas had absolutely no answer to the shooting clinic that the Mountaineer guard put on, exhibiting Steph Curry-like range, evading press defense and double teams, and consistently knocking down contested jumpers.

“I think that we started off really slow,” Texas forward Jatarie White said. “Knowing that the guards needed help guarding Tynice, I think the bigs could’ve done a better job helping the guards (defend Martin).”

More generally, Texas didn’t have an answer to West Virginia’s explosive scoring for the first 15 minutes of play. Between White’s four first-half turnovers and William’s inability to convert rare shot opportunities, the Longhorns’ first-half performance left much to be desired.

“We don’t start the game the way which I am accustomed to my teams starting,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I’m a big believer of getting out of the gate and trying to punch somebody first. We do not have that mentality, and we’ve really struggled with that all year.”

Midway through the second, Texas managed to temporarily pull the thorn out of its side for a brief moment, instilling a spark of hope that the Longhorns could cut the lead down to single digits. Alas, after another Mountaineer and-one, the deficit was back up to 11 for the Longhorns going into the half.

Despite being dominated for much of the third quarter, Texas did manage to put a dent in the deficit thanks to a buzzer-beating layup to cut the lead to eight going into the final period.

The fourth quarter was a different story altogether.

Texas fought vigorously, almost like the Longhorns were afraid of losing to their unranked opponent. After cutting the lead down to one possession midway through the fourth quarter, it seemed liked Texas was poised for another signature comeback win this season.

But West Virginia didn’t break despite an awful lot of bending.

With a four-point deficit and just over a minute remaining, Texas had a plethora of opportunities to regain its first lead since the opening quarter.

After eluding an aggressive trap defense, West Virginia had an opportunity for a wide-open layup to build the lead to six in the final minutes. Then, an incredulous miss almost made it seem like the universe was giving Texas one last opportunity.

But Joyner Holmes missed a layup opportunity of her own. West Virginia regained possession, and Texas was forced to play the fouling game.

“We tried to give it away at the end,” West Virginia head coach Mike Carey said. “Missed foul shots, turnovers, that type of stuff, but our girls really hung in there.”

This marks the first time since 2017 that a ranked Texas team has fallen to an unranked opponent at home, dealing the Longhorns’ Big 12 Championship aspirations a serious blow with Baylor coming to town next Tuesday.