Mountaineers Set to Battle Longhorns for a Trip to the Semifinal - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Mountaineers Set to Battle Longhorns for a Trip to the Semifinals

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Sagaba Konate blocks a shot in WVU's 77-62 win over Texas on February 20. Sagaba Konate blocks a shot in WVU's 77-62 win over Texas on February 20.

The Texas Longhorns used a 16-2 run in the second half to come from behind and beat Texas Tech 61-52, advancing them to the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship where they will meet the No. 2 seeded Mountaineers tonight at 7 p.m. at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

West Virginia holds a 2-0 advantage over the Longhorns this season: a 74-72 win in Austin and a 15-point victory at the WVU Coliseum. It is the first time WVU swept the series since 2013.

In the most recent win over Texas, Jevon Carter matched his season-high 24 points and Lamont West exploded off the bench to score 23. Jarrett Allen lead the Longhorns with 17 points.

Texas had lost the final seven games of the season before taking on the No. 7 seeded Red Raiders on Wednesday night in the opening round.  It was its first victory away from the Erwin Center this season. Andrew Jones tallied a team high 15 points, Kerwin Roach added 13 points, all of them coming in the second half, and Jarrett Allen added in 10 more to advance the Longhorns to the quarterfinals.

“(Jarrett) Allen is pretty good (for Texas). They don’t have anybody else in that caliber but they are the same way, they’ve got a bunch of guys and they throw guys in there and the guy who is making shots stays,” Coach Huggins said of the Longhorns.

Texas has struggled to close out games all season, and exerted a lot of energy last night in the final 10 minutes to get the comeback win. The Longhorns will have to play equally hard all 40 minutes if they want to knock Mountaineers that are coming in fresh.

“Excited about the opportunity to play them. One of the two teams that played just now was going to get the chance to play them and one of them was going to go home. So we'll definitely take the opportunity to play them,” Texas Coach Shaka Smart said last night after the win.

“We played them in two games. One at our place, one at their place. I thought we had some stretches where we really played well. They keep coming at you in waves. They've got a toughness about them. That obviously comes from Coach Huggins and his staff and the players they recruit, and I think for us it's about turning the page quickly from this game, and as Snoop said, letting our hair down and being aggressive and playing with nothing to lose.”

The Longhorns are looking to advance to the Phillip 66 Big 12 Championship semifinals for the first time since 2014. The Mountaineers are looking to make the trip for the second year in a row and this time return with the hardware.

“We plan to be here all three to four days. We plan to win every game, and we plan to win it all,” Jevon Carter said on Wednesday.

Carter is averaging 12.9 points per game, and has had two 24-point performances in the last few match ups. Esa Ahmad, who returned to action in the regular season finale after suffering a back injury, is averaging 11.4 points. Nate Adrian comes in averaging 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. We’ve also seen Daxter Miles, Lamont West, Tarik Phillip and a few others step up big for the Mountaineers through the second half of the season.

West Virginia has only lost seven games this season, with the majority being by single digits. Its largest loss came by nine points to Baylor on February 27. In almost all of those losses, the Mountaineers let a double digit lead slip away.

“We’re a tough team. The games that we lost a few weeks back, I feel like we gave those games away because we were up by 15 or 12 points with two minutes left, or whatever the case may be,” Tarik Phillip said.

In both previous contests with the Longhorns, the Mountaineers started off sluggish and were able to use a strong second half to earn the W. 

The regular season finale was on Friday, March 3, so the Mountaineers are looking to take advantage of their fresh legs, mindset and energy to power them to a chance to play for the Phillips 66 Big 12 Title.

“Obviously, you want to go far in the NCAA tournament, and this is where it all begins. These next three games are big for us,” Elijah Macon said. “Just letting them (younger guys) know you can’t take anybody lightly, you still have to come out here and play every game like it is your last.”

The the 2nd-seeded Mountaineers against the 10th-seeded Longhorns tonight at 7 p.m. at the Sprint Center in Kansas City with a trip to the semifinals on the line. The game will be televised national on ESPNU.

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