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January 9, 2013

Mountaineers battle back for first Big 12 win

West Virginia (8-6, 1-1) overcame a 13-point second half deficit to win its first ever Big 12 Conference road game 57-53 in overtime against Texas (8-7, 0-2) Wednesday night.

West Virginia struggled to shoot the ball, but relied on a timely 10-0 run down the stretch and offensive rebounding to cap off a comeback that seemed improbable at best for much of the game.

The Mountaineers were led in scoring by Aaric Murray with 12 points and Jabarie Hinds with 11, while the Longhorns got 12 points from Jonathan Holmes and 11 from Javan Felix.

Both teams started out of the gate slow but West Virginia was able to jump out to a 6-0 lead by the first television timeout leaving the Texas fans standing due to their custom to stay on their feet until the Longhorns score.

However, they would have the opportunity to take their seats quickly out of the first timeout when the Longhorns cut the lead in half on a three-pointer by Julien Lewis and it was within one after another basket by Javan Felix.

Jabarie Hinds put the Mountaineers back ahead 8-5 after an impressive drive to the basket, but both teams continued to struggle in the half court shooting under 40-percent from the floor through the first eight minutes. The two teams then traded baskets, and between a sequence where Deniz Kilicli had to leave the game due to a cut above his eye, Hinds was able to rattle in another drive to the basket to give West Virginia a 12-7 lead with 11:34 left in the first half.

Early in the game West Virginia had success spreading the floor and getting to the basket on drives, getting some much needed baskets to fall through.

But Texas would go on a 7-0 mini-run to take the first lead of the game at 15-14 with West Virginia only scoring two points over a four-minute span. The Longhorns would add to that advantage with another bucket to take a three-point advantage as West Virginia struggled to figure out the Texas zone defense.

Aaric Murray, who didn't start, ended the four and a half minute scoring drought with a pair of free throws to cut Texas lead to 18-16. And despite shooting 4-13 from the free throw line, Texas took a five point lead on a breakaway dunk that was matched on the other end by a dunk from Murray.

The Mountaineers entered the locker room trailing 24-21, in an ugly half between two teams with little flow offensively as West Virginia shot 25-percent from the floor including missing all ten of their three point attempts.

Texas opened the first half hitting a three on their first possession giving the Longhorns their largest lead of the game at 27-21, until another basket put the deficit at eight points.

West Virginia was able to cut the Longhorns lead to only four points on a hanging layup attempt by Gary Browne, but Texas was able to once again push their lead back out to 35-29 and that advantage would only continue to swell as it extended to 13-points with 8:25 left in the game. The lead remained in double digits with 4:34 left to play at 45-35, as the Mountaineers were able to mount several scores but unable to hold on the defensive end to string together a comeback.

Kevin Noreen finally snapped the Mountaineers drought from behind the three point line as they failed to connect on their first 14 attempts to cut the lead to 47-40, with less than three minutes left in the game as West Virginia attempted one final run. Another basket on a nice entry pass to Murray, followed by a defensive stand and a three-pointer by Hinds had the Mountaineers within a possession at 47-45.

And on that ensuing possession, Browne stepped in front of a pass and raced to the other end hitting a layup to tie the game and getting to the foul line but Browne failed to hit the free throw but capped off a 10-0 run.

The Mountaineers defense stood tall on forcing the Longhorns into a shot clock violation, giving them the ball back with 44 seconds left when head coach Bob Huggins took a timeout.

Out of the timeout the Mountaineers swung the ball around the top of the key late into the shot clock for an open look for freshman guard Eron Harris and he connected a three-pointer for the first lead since the first half at 50-47. Rick Barnes elected to let his team play the final possession, and the Longhorns couldn't covert but called a timeout with 5.9 seconds left.

Out of that timeout, the Longhorns got a look at the basket and tied the game up at 50-all from a desperation three-point attempt and the clock expired to send the game to overtime.

In overtime, the teams traded put back baskets and the Mountaineers took the lead at 54-52 on a pair of free throws and after a miss by the Longhorns the Mountaineers were able to secure three consecutive offensive rebounds running off a significant portion of the extra period. However, Kilicli fouled out on 90-feet from the basket to give the Longhorns two shots at the line where they connected on one attempt.

The Mountaineers ran the shot clock but missed a three pointer, but the offensive rebounding came up huge again as Dominique Rutledge saved the ball back to Browne who was fouled with West Virginia leading 54-53 with 15.8 left in overtime.

Browne hit one of two from the line, and on Texas's possession the Longhorns pass attempt was intercepted by Murray and he salted the game away from the foul line giving West Virginia a 57-53 win.


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