Texas put the defensive clamps on West Virginia at the Big 12 conference tournament on Thursday night, rolling to a 66-49 victory in the Sprint Center that probably ended the Mountaineers’ NCAA Tournament hopes.
The Longhorns raced to a 12-0 advantage in the first four minutes and extended the margin to 35-14 by halftime as the Mountaineers struggled from the field. West Virginia (17-15), which scored a 92-86 upset of No. 10 Kansas in Saturday’s regular-season finale, never showed the type of offensive prowess it flashed against the Big 12 regular-season champs.
The Mountaineers connected on just 30.3 percent of their shots, including a paltry 18.2 rate in the first half, when Texas (23-9) delivered its knockout punch. West Virginia went 0-for-8 from behind the arc in the first 20 minutes, with All-Big 12 guard Juwan Staten connecting on just one of his first nine shots while the game was on the line.
The victory moved the Longhorns, the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 tournament, into tonight’s semifinal matchup against Baylor, the No. 7 seed. It marked Texas’ third triumph in three meetings with West Virginia this season. All three victories came by double-digit margins.
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Texas leaned heavily on forward Jonathan Holmes, who showed minimal signs of the knee injury that has slowed him in recent weeks.
Holmes, who declared himself “as close to 100 percent as I’ve been” since injuring the knee Feb. 8 in a loss at Kansas State, hit 4-of-5 shots, scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in the first-half onslaught. He finished with a game-high 20 points and seven rebounds.
Holmes and guard Javan Felix (16 points, six assists) carried much of the offensive load for Texas, which needs a victory over Baylor to reach its first Big 12 tournament title game since 2011.
Texas, considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament, took its largest lead of the contest, 54-24, on Holmes’ 3-pointer with 9:43 remaining and matched it when Connor Lammert’s layup put Texas on top, 58-28, with 5:46 to play. Down the stretch, the biggest buzz came when Texas guard Kendal Yancy dove across the press table while chasing a loose ball and landed on the school’s new athletic director, Steve Patterson.
Patterson, who was not injured, tweeted: “Nearly taken out by Kendal Yancy. Good hustle.”