The Texas Longhorns look like they are ready to compete down the stretch, improving their record (14-10, 6-5) after getting their second road win of the season. The 75-53 victory over the West Virginia Mountaineers showcased what the team is capable of with this cadre of players. Let’s get into the highlights of this confidence-building performance in Morgantown.
Texas started strong against the struggling Mountaineers. The team broke out to take an early a 10-2 lead, with Kerwin Roach II scoring 8 of the first 10 points. The Longhorns got complacent for a moment, as they let West Virginia claw back to cut the lead to just 2 points. But Texas had a sense of hustle and effort, which gave them a clear edge over the defeated Mountaineers. Whether it be the rebounds by Dylan Osetkowski or the confidence of Courtney Ramey, the Longhorns had all the confidence they needed. The team was playing loose with fluidity, especially after discovering the continuous success of the pick-and-roll.
The guard-duo of Kerwin Roach II and Courtney Ramey ran the show for Texas. They exhibited a cohesion that was best described by Ramey’s statement dunk at the 10:49 mark in the second half (if you have not seen it, you probably will on SportsCenter). Roach finished with 14 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals. Ramey finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Ramey was especially hot from behind the arc, going 5 of 6 from deep.
West Virginia had some success in the first half, giving themselves chances and capitalizing on the sporadic decision making of the referees. The referees booked several questionable fouls throughout the game. This included fouls that resulted in substitutes for Kerwin Roach and Jaxson Hayes within the first 4 minutes of the game. With over 10 first-half fouls, Texas had to be careful to keep their team out of foul trouble. West Virginia’s Esa Ahmad and Derek Culver took advantage of the situation, bringing West Virginia to a 1-point deficit, 29-28. But the Mountaineers allowed Texas to finish the first half on a 5-0 run. Little did they know, it would be a sign of how the second half would unfold.
In the second half, everything opened up for the Longhorns. West Virginia threw in the towel right away, as Texas went on a 10-1 run to start the second half. Dunks from Roach, Hayes and Ramey caused West Virginia to back down in the snap of a finger. Texas even got out to as big of a lead as 28. Everything seemed to be clicking, and the most important part was that the team was not letting up. Regardless of the opponent, it was crucial to see the team play as aggressive and dedicated as they did. Even Osetkowski, who did not have a great shooting night, made all 4 of his free throws, and corralled 10 rebounds in his team-leading 32 minutes on the floor. Regardless of his personal point total, he played an important role. The team was playing well together, which is a good sign moving forward.
Two things to Watch for When Texas plays Kansas State on Tuesday:
- Courtney Ramey. The freshman had a great night, and is continuing to play a strong role in Shaka Smart’s game plan. In the last home game against Baylor, Ramey guarded Makai Mason, who was coming off a 40-point performance. Ramey shut him down until Mason injured his foot in the second half. Not only has Ramey been a factor on defense, but he is growing in his offensive role. He tied a career-high 19 points against West Virginia in just 30 minutes on the floor. If he moves forward with the confidence he displayed last night, he will only continue to improve and help the team moving forward.
- Effort and Aggression. Texas displayed great effort and aggression against West Virginia. But will they be able to maintain focus against Kansas State? They will be playing the Big 12 leaders who have been solid as of late, winning 8 straight in Big 12 play. When the Longhorns are confident in something, for instance the pick-and-roll against the Mountaineers, they will aggressively utilize that strategy. They need to maintain that aggression, even if their game plan has to be changed throughout the game on Tuesday.
Texas has several positives going for them after their second-straight win for the first time in a month. It will be important for them to get their mindset right for another big matchup Tuesday night against Kansas State, in Austin.
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