As fans trickled out of a mostly-empty Erwin Center on Saturday night, West Virginia basketball players could be heard cheering in their locker room.
And why not hoot and holler? The Mountaineers had silenced Texas for the second time this season. Four weeks ago, West Virginia handed Texas a 34-point loss in Morgantown. This time around, it was an 81-75 decision that extended the 21st-ranked Mountaineers’ winning streak to 10.
Texas, though, wasn’t ready to pat itself on the back for keeping the score closer. For UT coach Vic Schaefer, a loss carried more weight than a moral victory.
“I ain’t in it for that,” said Schaefer after referencing a participation trophy. “We played good enough to win tonight, but we played bad enough to lose.”
Added junior Charli Collier: “We definitely competed (better) with them this game than we did at West Virginia, but that’s not the point. You’ve still got to get the win.”
In the weeks following its worst loss in conference play since 2013, the Longhorns didn’t mince their words. The Mountaineers, as Schaefer put it earlier this week, “really beat us soundly in every phase.”
On Saturday, Texas had revenge in its sights. But the Longhorns failed to cash in on several opportunities in the fourth quarter. In the final frame, UT missed three free throws. It was called for a shot clock violation. Then came two critical errors.
Senior point guard Kyra Lambert, who ranked fifth nationally with her 4.27 assists-to-turnover ratio, was called for a 5-second inbounds violation with 2:16 remaining and Texas trailing by two points. In the game’s final minute, Texas trailed 78-74 when Audrey Warren stole the basketball but then missed a fast-break lay-up.
Schaefer said that inbounds play is used often and he thought a player had broken open. He was surprised by Warren’s missed shot but expressed more disappointment that a Texas team that was supposed to be pressing did not have another player down the court on the fast-break opportunity.
“I think those basic things is what separated West Virginia from us,” junior Lauren Ebo said. “I think if those would have happened, if we would have made free throws, made layups, got stops on defense then it would have been our victory.”
The loss dropped Texas to 13-5 and 7-4 in Big 12 play. West Virginia (15-2) has now won nine of its 11 conference games. West Virginia and No. 8 Baylor (13-2, 8-1) were the only Big 12 teams ranked by the Associated Press this week.
Following the game, Schaefer decried the undisciplined look the Longhorns were showing on the court. Eighteen games into his Texas tenure, Schaefer took the brunt of the blame.
“Whatever we are and aren’t, it’s a reflection of me,” Schaefer said.
Texas was led by Collier’s 21 points. An All-American candidate, Collier made 8 of 11 from the field and went 3 for 4 from behind the 3-point line. She even made seven straight shots at one point.
Collier, however, did not attempt a field goal after she scored with 7:42 left in the third quarter. She did not leave the court over those 17 minutes.
“We’ve just got to do better overall,” said Collier, who preached a need for consistency in her postgame availability. “We’ve got to find something that works and stick to it.”
West Virginia was led by the 30 points scored by sophomore guard Kirsten Deans, who was averaging 11.8 points per game. Kysre Gondrezick added 20 points for the Mountaineers.
Texas had five players score in double digits. In addition to Collier’s offensive output, Texas got 15 points from Joanne Allen-Taylor, 12 points from Ebo, 11 points from Lambert and 10 from Celeste Taylor.
Tip-ins: Texas announced a crowd of 997 for Saturday’s game.Fans were last admitted to a women’s basketball game at the Erwin Center on Dec. 18. … Warren, who is arguably the best defender on the Texas roster, fouled out in the game’s final minute. She played only 19 minutes on Saturday and was whistled for her fourth foul with 9:08 left in the second quarter. … Collier said she rolled her ankle in a shoot-around before the game.