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No.6 WVU returns home to battle Texas

WVU's Devin Williams (41) jogging down the court against Oklahoma. (Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS)
WVU’s Devin Williams (41) jogging down the court against Oklahoma.
(Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Last week the West Virginia Mountaineers made a statement to the nation when they knocked off the then-No.1 Kansas and took then No.2-Oklahoma to the wire.

On Wednesday night, the sixth-ranked Mountaineers will look to keep rolling at the top of the Big 12 standings when Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns come to town.

Smart is in his first year as head coach of the Longhorns. He is best known for his “HAVOC” defense at Virginia Commonwealth.

The full-court pressure defense helped lead VCU to five trips to the NCAA Tournament, including the Rams’ 2011 Final Four appearances.

While Texas (11-6, 3-2) is taking some time to adjust to its new style of play, the Longhorns are figuring it out.

Texas is riding a two game conference winning streak with wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State.

The Longhorns will be without the services of Cam Ridley, who broke his foot during practice on December 27.

Prince Ibeh is filling in for Ridley and is becoming a defensive threat. Ibeh is paired with Connor Lammert. Both provide a presence in the paint.

Texas is led by junior guard Isaiah Taylor, who averages 17.2 points per game. The reigning Big 12 player of the week has a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in five conference games.

“I like everything about him,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “I think he understands when people are coming open and he gets the ball to them. He’s the best guy in our league at pushing the ball. He’s got the best mid-range game in our league. He’s just really good and he’s good defensively. He hasn’t shot a bunch of threes but he’s capable.”

Since losing Ridley, the Longhorns have depended more on 3-pointers, but they are making just 28 percent.

Jonathan Holton (1) jogging down the court against Oklahoma. (Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS)
Jonathan Holton (1) jogging down the court against Oklahoma.
(Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff, BGS)

WVU leads the Big 12 in 3-point field-goal percentage defense at 27.4.

The Mountaineers held two of the nation’s top offensive teams to 37.3 percent from the field combined last week. Oklahoma is the best 3-point shooting team in the country and WVU held them to 7 of 24 from beyond the arc.

The Mountaineers are looking to bounce back from Saturday’s disappointing 70-68 loss to the Sooners.

Devin Williams averages 14.1 ppg and 8.6 rebounds per game. The junior has struggled offensively the last few games. He got into foul trouble and was limited to 15 minutes of playing time where he had five points and six rebounds against Oklahoma.

Jaysean Paige continues to come off the bench and put up big numbers for the Mountaineers. The senior guard scored a career-high 26 points against Kansas and 18 against the Sooners.

Tarik Phillip continues to find success coming off the bench alongside Paige. Phillip is averaging 7.6 ppg.

This will be the 11th meeting between WVU and the Longhorns.

Texas leads the series 6-4.

Last season the Longhorns defeated the Mountaineers in Austin, but the Mountaineers defeated Texas 71-64 at the Coliseum.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.

Shanna Rose
WVU Graduate with a bachelor's in journalism and multimedia journalist. Sports Fan and sports writer. Former WVU News reporter. Contact Shanna on Twitter @SMR1837
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