By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Who knew they were doing the state of West Virginia a favor by not televising the Mountaineers’ basketball game with Texas in the state.
It probably would have been even better if they had found a way to keep it off the radio, too.
It was that bad as Texas, which owned the rights to the game and broadcast it on the Longhorn network, battered WVU inside and scored an 88-71 victory that included no less than 10 dunks as evidence to how much it dominated the inside.
For the night, Texas outscored WVU, 46-14, in the paint and outrebounded the Mountaineers by 15 rebounds after leading in rebounds by 19 while winning the first game in Morgantown, 80-69.
The Mountaineers could not handle Cameron Ridley, the Texas big man, who finished with 17 points, six rebounds and three blocks while all five starters reached double figures, led by Javan Felix with 18 points.
On the positive side, WVU point guard Juwan Staten recorded his 1,000th career point including his year at Dayton and two years at WVU while scoring 14 despite a difficult shooting night in which the Longhorns kept him from penetrating to the basket.
Staten did have seven assists to one turnover to go with six rebounds and two steals.
Eron Harris scored 21 points but also was off shooting, saving his night by hitting 9 of 10 free throws. He has missed only two free throws all season in Big 12 play.
The first half was everything West Virginia didn’t want it to be, with the Longhorns actually threatening to decide the issue before anyone on the Mountaineers had worked up a sweat … at least not on the defensive side.
Terry Henderson put together a four-point play to give the Mountaineers a 14-11 lead early on, but before you could say “can anyone here guard anyone?” Texas went on a 17-2 run, ended only when Henderson could score again.
It was almost laughable as easily as Texas was scoring, although Bob Huggins wasn’t laughing.
“You can’t let people shoot 58 percent. I’ve had teams where if you brought the Boston Celtics in they wouldn’t have shot 58 percent,” he said after the game. “We told them we have to fortify the paint. We can’t let them attack the paint by pass or dribble. They score 46 points in the paint.”
It might not have been as bad as it seemed if someone from WVU could score, but until Staten hit his first basket with just 4:20 left in the half – that’s 15:40 in – Henderson and Eron Harris were the only Mountaineers to have scored.
Remi Dibo, Nathan Adrian, Gary Browne. ... Nothing.
Why was it so easy for Texas?
Well, they were getting shots at point-blank range, exactly what Huggins had hoped to avoid.
“As we say every day in practice, we have to get first blood. We have to go meet them, not let them come meet us or they will have us under the basket,” Huggins said before the game.
It was so bad that at halftime Texas held a 24-4 lead in points in the paint.
But WVU had a rally in them before halftime, narrowing the 18-point deficit to 40-29 at halftime as Nate Adrian hit a 3, the only points from anyone other than Harris, Henderson and Staten in the half, with 16 seconds left and then the Mountaineers put together a solid defensive stop to take something positive into the locker room.
The second half opened as the Mountaineers could only dream it would, Devin Williams sinking a 17-foot jump shot and Harris hitting a 3.
Suddenly, the lead was down to six points at 40-34, but if you thought Texas was about to crack, it was more like Texas was about to crack open the game.
Texas spurted to eight consecutive points to push the lead back to 14 but more important to establish its physical advantage again, the lead in the paint going to 30-4.
How easy were Texas’ baskets? At this point they had not missed a second-half shot, making their first five.
And it wasn’t about to change as Prince Ibeh slammed home Texas’ sixth dunk of the evening with 11:37 to play, giving them a shooting percentage of better than 64 percent for the game, nearly 30 percent higher than WVU was shooting.
Somehow, WVU kept clinging to what hope it had as Adrian continued to bang home 3s, scoring his third to cut Texas’ lead to 63-51.
Staten finally came to life offensively with a basket and then a traditional 3-point play to narrow it to 72-62, but Texas continued to pass the ball crisply and got a couple of baskets to stretch the lead out again.
The Mountaineers never could cut the into the lead any closer and now are off until they face Baylor next Saturday at home.
From that point on they play at Iowa State, host TCU, go to Oklahoma and then close the regular season at home against Kansas.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.