Texas has battled inconsistency for its entire season. Players on the Longhorns’ roster consider themselves capable of beating any team in the country, but they’ve also faced the blunt reality of losing to other teams they easily could have beaten.
Entering a road matchup against West Virginia, Texas knew it couldn't afford to suffer from the same problems, particularly since the Longhorns’ tournament chances would take a significant hit if they collected a loss against a conference bottom feeder.
On Saturday night, the Longhorns put aside the mistakes that have plagued them this season, assembling their most dominant performance of the entire season. In a game it controlled the entire away, Texas dismantled the Mountaineers on the road and collected a much-needed conference victory in the process, cruising to a 75-53 victory.
“I'm totally embarrassed that this is happening,” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said following the game. “I don't know what to say."
The Longhorns were driven by exceptional performance from their guards. The trio of Matt Coleman III, Kerwin Roach II and Courtney Ramey scored a combined 39 points, dished out 11 assists and turned the ball over just two times.
For a team that is incredibly reliant on guard play to drive its success, the Longhorns’ performance was a welcoming sign. Specifically, head coach Shaka Smart pointed to Roach as a driving force for the Longhorns on Saturday.
“He’s our best player, and he’s playing like a senior should right now, with a lot of confidence and also an urgency that seniors should have,” Smart said.
On the defensive end, Texas manhandled a West Virginia offense that has recently struggled. The Mountaineers only shot 35 percent from the field, including a woeful 19 percent from three. Only one player for West Virginia scored in double figures. Texas also outrebounded West Virginia by a 42-34 margin.
While the Longhorns’ defense has meddled in mediocrity at times on the road this season, it was the revival of the unit that guided the team to its most dominant win since the early part of the season.
“We just don’t move the ball,” Huggins said of his offense. “We didn’t rebound it. We’ve had bad games before shooting the ball, but we’ve always rebounded. We didn’t rebound it at either end. I probably shouldn’t say this, but the reality is they’re more talented than we are. So, we have to do things right, and we didn’t do things right.”
With Saturday’s win, Texas moves to above .500 in conference play for the first time since Jan. 12. For a team that knows it desperately needs victories in order to piece together a potential NCAA tournament bid, Saturday’s road win marks a significant step in the right direction.
As the Longhorns move forward, they have to make performances like Saturday’s a more consistent occasion. While Texas may be able to beat any team on its schedule, it’s also capable of losing to anyone.
The next month will be a deciding factor for this group. In order for it to be a success, Smart and the Longhorns know it’s going to require the emergence of a consistent level of energy throughout the rest of the season, especially on the road.
“I think the key for our guys is, can you create the feeling inside yourself and then inside your teammates that you have to win in a hostile environment?” Smart said. “It’s amazing when you create that feeling inside yourself and inside your teammates, and how that affects the circumstances on the back end.”