By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
This one wasn’t a heartbreaker for West Virginia.
A season breaker? Maybe, but not a heartbreaker.
After so many heartbreaking losses, and five consecutive down-to-the-wire games with Texas (13-4 2-2) over the history of their series, West Virginia (10-7, 2-2) threw a clunker in there, losing to the Longhorns, 80-69, before 8,706 fans — nearly all of whom started leaving for the exits with 6:11 left as if a fire alarm had gone off in Coliseum when Javan Felix hit a layup to stretch the advantage to 21 points.
West Virginia’s late run was more a matter of them trying to score and Texas content to run clock than any real threat put together by a Mountaineer team that shot so badly it couldn’t have won the big prize in the Kroger halftime shoot off.
“We didn’t make any shots,” said a perplexed Bob Huggins after the game, fully aware that the euphoria of a 2-0 Big 12 start with pair of road victories had been erased with a pair of losses on the home floor.
That is not exactly true. West Virginia actually made 26 baskets in the game, just three fewer than Texas.
What West Virginia didn’t do was make 3-point baskets and considering they were facing the worst 3-point defense in the conference, that spelled doom.
“Four for 25,” said Huggins, when someone suggested that his team played without energy. “That will drain the energy out of you.”
Four for 25 in 3-point shots is 16 percent, but it was worse than that for from the moment Terry Henderson made WVU’s first basket with a 3 until Nathan Adrian make one with 9:21 left in the game, WVU had missed 15 consecutive 3s.
You couldn’t do that if you tried.
“It’s contagious, just like it’s contagious if you are making shots,” said WVU’s point guard Juwan Staten. “You miss a few and you start pressing, just like you get comfortable if you make a few and they keep going down.”
The biggest culprit was the player who figured to have the best night, WVU’s best 3-point shooter, Eron Harris.
But he continued in a shooting slump as he went 0-for-7 from 3 and 3-for-11 from the floor. Harris went 3 for 11 against Texas Tech from 3, 1 for 6 against Oklahoma State and 0 for 7 in this game, giving him 4 of his last 24.
Juwan Staten continued his magnificent play with 23 points on 9 of 14 shooting with five assists and only one turnover. Terry Henderson added 16 but that covers all the good news.
Add the bad shooting to a night when the Big 12s best rebounding team just bullied WVU around, grabbing off 49 rebounds to the Mountaineers’ 30, and you really had no chance. Second chance points were only 12-5 and the statistics sheet said WVU had 11 offensive rebounds to 10 for Texas, but they had to be watching a different game than the one that was being played down on the Coliseum floor.
If Huggins could have outlined his worst nightmare for the first half, it wouldn’t have been nearly as bad as reality.
By halftime WVU was down by 14, 41-27, and hadn’t played anywhere near that good.
Eron Harris looked as though he might be on the way to a decent scoring night with two early baskets but he also picked up two early fouls and found himself sitting on the bench.
Terry Henderson picked up where he left off against Oklahoma State with nine first-half points and Juwan Staten showed a couple of nifty moves on his way to seven points, but that sums up all WVU did.
Cameron Ridley, who is about as big as the Waterfront Place Hotel, was devouring WVU inside with eight points, six rebounds and one block … although he chased away about four other players who taken the ball inside before thinking better of trying to shoot it.
When it was over, Texas’ big size advantage made a huge difference, out-rebounding WVU by 24-16; outscoring them, 22-10, in the paint; and holding the Mountaineers to 33.3 percent shooting in the first half.
It didn’t help, either, making 1 of 7 from 3-point range against the team that is the Big 12’s worst at defending against the 3.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.