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Game Preview: Texas vs. West Virginia

Feb 2, 2019; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers guard Jermaine Haley (10) celebrates from the bench during the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners at WVU Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports



The story of the season: Inconsistency. Can Texas get back on track with a win streak for the first time since late December?

The Longhorns are looking to build on their big win over Baylor Wednesday night. With an array of players stepping up as of late, especially Jaxson Hayes and Matt Coleman III, Texas has more strengths to help them with consistency. Coleman has averaged 15.5 points, 5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game in the last two games. Hayes has averaged 11.8 points and 6 rebounds per game, and has a FG percentage of 69.7%, and FT percentage of 81.25% in the last five games. The FG percentage is below average for him, but he leads the Big 12 at 74.4%. With statistics like Coleman and Hayes are churning out, coupled with the success of Kerwin Roach II, Texas has the tools to compete with the best in the Big 12 Conference.

The Longhorns still need to prevent the small errors that seem to occur every game. This includes their FT shooting, which, during the Baylor game, was 64.7% (22 for 34), well below their 70.2% average. Luck will only last for so long, and teams with consistency (i.e. Kansas, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Iowa State) will make Shaka Smart’s team pay for their mistakes. The road record for the Longhorns is not admirable, as 1-5 leaves a lot to be desired. But with a matchup like this one, Texas can help improve their résumé with a strong performance in Morgantown.

West Virginia have played three ranked opponents in their last four games, with all three games being away. They played Rick Barnes’ No.1-ranked Tennessee team in Knoxville, No. 17-ranked Iowa State, and No. 18-ranked Texas Tech. With their 1-3 record since January 26th, this Mountaineers team is tired of losing. It will be the Longhorns’ job to make sure West Virginia doesn’t get some late magic going for themselves. The Mountaineers have struggled this season, most notably due to injuries. The biggest issue to date has been the injury to Sagaba Konate, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Bob Huggins is struggling this year, and the 10-13 record is showing every bit of that. West Virginia still has some good pieces, including James Bolden (12.2 PPG & 2.5 APG). Matt Coleman III will have his hands full keeping him contained in man/press situations. Although West Virginia is at the bottom of the Big 12, they absolutely pose a threat to Texas.

Texas can win this game, but only if they take advantage of their opportunities early and carry out the right game strategy from the start to finish. The three things Texas must do to win are:

1. Get the Ball Inside to Hayes and Osetkowski.

These two have done great when they are utilized in the paint. Hayes is especially crucial for Texas’ success, as he can not only create opportunities for himself, but he can also open up opportunities for Osetkowski in a double-team situation.

2. Make your Free Throws.

This is the easiest facet of the game. Stay within yourself, have a calm approach, and make more than 7 out of every 1o. Texas has struggled with this as of late, and even in winning results, they have a plethora of opportunities they waste. In Wednesday night’s game, the team looked disengaged when they were taking free throws late. I am not a collegiate basketball player, but they should be motivate because these pat their stats.3.

3. Continue to Mix Up Defensive Looks.

The first 30 minutes of the Baylor game showed great progress from the Iowa State game from a defensive standpoint. Texas had more of an aggressive 2-3 zone, which did not give Baylor’s three-point shooters the cushion they were successful with during their 6-game win streak. But the team also utilized an occasional full court press, which typically resulted in turnovers or bad offensive drives for Baylor. With that mindset, Texas can build a defensive consistency that will increase their confidence and create more offensive opportunity. This will only help them as they get closer to the postseason.

The tip-off for Texas @ West Virginia at the WVU Coliseum will take place at 7:00 PM CST on ESPN2.

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