WVU takes momentum into Texas game today

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia is confronting a young and inexperienced Texas Longhorn basketball team that is now without its top scorer when the 10th-ranked Mountaineers travel to Austin this afternoon for a Big 12 men’s basketball game at the Erwin Center.

Second-year Texas coach Shaka Smart announced that Tevin Mack, a 6-foot-7 sophomore small forward who is averaging a team-best 14.8 points per game, has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.

Mack scored 27 points against Oklahoma State earlier this month and is the Longhorns’ top long-distance shooter making a team-best 34 3s.

This is Mack’s second suspension this season.

Kendal Yancy, one of the three guards who helped Texas to a pair of seven-point wins over West Virginia last year, is also out with an ankle injury sustained in the Kansas State game back on Dec. 30. He has appeared in 13 games so far this year and is averaging 6.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per contest.

That leaves Smart with only seven available players that have seen action in Big 12 games so far this year.

Besides Mack, Texas’ two best scorers in conference play so far this year have been Jarrett Allen, a 6-foot-11, 235-pound freshman forward averaging 12.8 points per game in league play, and Kerwin Roach Jr., a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard averaging 12.3 points in Big 12 action.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has been impressed with Allen, who is averaging a double-double in Big 12 play so far this year.

“Jarrett Allen is so agile and bouncy,” he said. “He gets off the floor quick, long and he’s a terrific shot blocker. He really runs in transition.”

Texas (7-9, 1-3) is off to a disappointing start in conference play with its lone victory coming at home against Oklahoma State, 82-79. The three losses were on the road at Kansas State, 65-62, at Iowa State, 79-70, and most recently at home against TCU, 64-61, on Wednesday night.

“They’re still pressing – maybe not as much – but they’re pressing three-quarter court, full-court sometimes, half-court trap you a little bit – they do a lot of different things you have to get ready for,” said Huggins. “The scary thing is they really make shots. They are as good at shooting step-in 3s as anybody in our league and their bigs are very, very good. They’re very talented.”

West Virginia has won only once in Austin since joining the Big 12 in 2012, that coming in 2013 – a 57-53 Mountaineer victory.

WVU lost 88-71 in 2014, 77-50 in 2015 and 85-78 last year.

Guard Tarik Phillip came off the bench to lead West Virginia with 19 points.

“I think our guys last year did a really good job of carrying out our plan,” said Smart of last year’s season sweep against WVU. “We had a couple days to prepare for them going into each game and I thought our guys were really locked in on what we needed to do against their pressure.”

The Mountaineers (14-2, 3-1) are looking to keep pace with Big 12 leader Kansas, which is 4-0 following its 11-point win at Oklahoma earlier this week.

West Virginia knocked off previously undefeated and top-ranked Baylor, 89-68, on Tuesday night at the WVU Coliseum.

Senior forward Nathan Adrian led the Mountaineers with 22 points. Adrian (10.7 ppg.) is one of for WVU starters averaging double figures. The others are sophomore forward Esa Ahmad (12.6 ppg.), junior guard Jevon Carter (10.9 ppg.) and junior guard Daxter Miles Jr. (10.6 ppg.).

Senior forward Brandon Watkins is expected to make his sixth start of the season on today. He is averaging 7.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

A 4 p.m. tipoff is slated for today’s game, which will be televised nationally on ESPN2.