MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Many know about Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense from his VCU days. He’s trying to resurrect the same kind of approach at Texas.
What may not be as well-recognized is the way his team is taking care of the ball.
The Longhorns turned it over just eight times against West Virginia’s vaunted “Press Virginia” and walked away with a 56-49 upset over 6th-ranked WVU.
The Mountaineers were turning over its opponents more than 20 times per game, but the Longhorns have averaged just 11 miscues per contest. In their last four games, that number is just 27.
“We’ve been using a pretty good amount of (full-court press) in conference play and our guys have taken it more and more,” Smart said. “At VCU, we practiced full-court pressure all the time. It took a couple of years out, but we got really good at it. It didn’t turn them over a ton, but we had some near-turnovers and we had some times where you kind of felt good about what had happened coming out of it.”
Javan Felix scored the final nine points for Texas and led the Longhorns to a 56-49 victory over No. 6 West Virginia on Wednesday night.
Felix, who finished with 17 points, shot 4 of 9 from the field, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range, and was 7 of 8 from the foul line against a Mountaineers team (15-3, 4-2 Big 12) that had not lost at the WVU Coliseum this season.
During the key stretch, Felix had a one-hand follow-up shot, two free throws, a 3-pointer and two more foul shots for the Longhorns (12-6, 4-2).
Because of light snow, slush and ice, Texas’ team bus failed to arrive at the WVU Coliseum until 6:15 p.m., just 45 minutes before the tip.
West Virginia had just split a pair of games against Kansas and Oklahoma last week to move up the national rankings. The Mountaineers fell flat in this one.
“I have always thought, as long as I’ve done this, when you make easy shots and when you can’t make free throws, you’re not mentally into what you’re doing,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “And we weren’t mentally into what we were doing.”
The letdown came despite West Virginia having occupied the national rankings for 20 of the last 25 polls, dating to last season.
“This is a league you cannot relax at all. It’s just how the league is,” the Mountaineers’ Devin Williams said. “I think it’s just a learning experience and we’ll be back. This is something that we needed and we just got a little too comfortable.”
West Virginia received double-doubles from Williams — 11 points, 11 rebounds — and Jonathan Holton — 10 points, 14 rebounds.
Texas fought back from a brief deficit to take a 28-25 halftime lead over West Virginia. The Mountaineers charged ahead 34-29 with 15:24 left.
The Longhorns were ahead 42-37 with 9:18 remaining when West Virginia battled back. After Elijah Macon missed both free throws, Jaysean Paige got the ball and made a layup, and Holton followed with a score. Daxter Miles Jr.’s 3-pointer tied it.
Texas called a timeout with 6:17 left, then outscored West Virginia 14-7 the rest of the way.
Neither team shot well. The Mountaineers were 19 of 60 from the field (31.7 percent) and just 3 of 21 from 3-point range (a 14.3 percent rate). Though West Virginia outrebounded Texas 49-33, the Mountaineers shot just 8 of 23 from the free-throw line.
Texas: The Longhorns are 3-1 against Top 25 teams this season. They lost to then-No. 25 Texas A&M 84-73, but have defeated then-No. 3 North Carolina 84-82 and now the Mountaineers.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers found themselves ranked as high as No. 6 for the first time since March 15, 2010. WVU has been ranked 25 out of the last 30 weeks, dating to last season.
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Before Wednesday’s game, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said he called Smart last season during the NCAA tournament. They wanted to talk about a particular Mountaineers opponent, but also to compare their presses. Smart said Huggins’ “Press Virginia” was equal to that of Rick Pitino at Kentucky and Nolan Richardson’s teams of the 1990s.
Smart led VCU to the Final Four in 2011 using the press. Smart’s scheme allowed the Rams to lead the nation in team steals for each of the next three years.
The Longhorns continue to play without big man Cameron Ridle (6-foot-10, 290 pounds), who is out for a few more weeks with a broken foot.
West Virginia backups have been outscoring its first team in recent games. Texas switched that figure around. The Longhorn’s subs outscored the Mountaineers backups 21-15.
Texas travels to No. 3 Kansas on Saturday. This marks the first time since 2012 that the Longhorns have played back-to-back games against opponents in the Top 10 and first time in program history that UT has played consecutive teams in the Top 10 in true road contests.
West Virginia goes to Texas Tech, also Saturday.