A familiar scene played out in Morgantown, W. Va. for Texas on Monday night.
After leading for most of the first half, Texas saw its early lead turn into a seven point halftime deficit. The second half did not start well either, with West Virginia pushing its lead to 11 with 14 minutes to play. But a Texas run tightened up the game to set up a dramatic finish.
And once again, Texas failed to execute and saw another close game slip out of its grasp.
Texas has not found the magic equation that will get it close wins on the road in conference play. Rick Barnes made an adjustment to get the game close, only to see Bob Huggins adjust his defense to keep the Longhorns scoreless from the field over the final four and a half minutes of the game.
Currently, Texas has proved easy to figure out. The offense has not improved and still has all the same problems that have haunted it all season.
The ball movement isn’t there. The players still stand around on offense too much, leaving the guards to dribble around the top of the key wondering what the heck to do with the ball.
The defense has been playing up to the standards past teams have set. Texas is second in the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense, and held West Virginia seven points under its season average.
But the offense just isn’t there. For years, Texas has had trouble on offense. There have been times in the past where it was hard to watch the Longhorns try to make a layup. But this team’s problems are much deeper than missing layups. It is often an accomplishment to watch Texas get to the rim.
The Longhorns look lost.
Javan Felix finally got something going and helped to erase an 11-point deficit to put Texas in a position to win the game with about five minutes left.
But West Virginia’s adjustments befuddled him and the Longhorns. Without his penetration driving the ball in the lane, the offense completely stalled. Over the final four minutes, Texas turned the ball over four times and missed its final eight shots from the field .
Free throws also plagued the Longhorns in this game. Texas shot 19 free throws while West Virginia shot 29, making 20 of those attempts. The Longhorns only made 11 free throws with four coming in the final minute of the game after Sheldon McClellan drew fouls off of three-pointers on consecutive possessions. Ball penetration and dribble penetration would create more free throws, but the ball rarely moves inside with the best opportunities coming off offensive rebounds. What little ball penetration there was came when Texas made its comeback run in the second half.
The Longhorns’ tournament hopes, and not just the NCAA, are slipping away. If it can’t find a way to improve on offense, Texas will be left begging for an opportunity to join the CBI at the end of the season.