Texas-West Virginia Preview

A tip-in at the buzzer kept West Virginia from one of the best weeks in school history. Still, it took a stride forward in the Top 25 and proved it's a true contender in the Big 12.

The sixth-ranked Mountaineers look to avoid a letdown Wednesday night when they host a Texas team trying to remain in striking distance during a daunting week.

West Virginia (15-2, 4-1) fell just short last week of becoming the first to knock off the nation's top two ranked teams in consecutive games since Kansas topped North Carolina and Memphis in the 2008 Final Four.

After dispatching the then-No. 1 Jayhawks 74-63 to improve to 8-0 at home last Tuesday, the Mountaineers' eight-game winning streak was snapped on a tip-in to close Saturday's 70-68 loss at then-No. 2 Oklahoma – denying West Virginia sole possession of first place in the Big 12.

However, the Mountaineers jumped five spots in the rankings for their first appearance in the top 10 since closing the 2009-10 season at No. 6.

''We play hard,'' coach Bob Huggins said. ''We try. I think we compete. They're good guys. They want to win, they try to win.''

Jaysean Paige, the only player in the top 15 in the conference in scoring who hasn't started every game, paced West Virginia in both contests last week, scoring a career-high 26 points against Kansas and 18 against Oklahoma.

Paige, who has come off the bench in all but one game, leads a dynamic group of West Virginia reserves that includes Tarik Phillip (7.6 points and 3.0 assists per game) and Elijah Macon (6.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg).

Huggins said he wouldn't change his rotation as his team tries to break free from a tightly bunched upper half of the conference.

Texas (11-6, 3-2) is not far behind in coach Shaka Smart's first season thanks to consecutive home wins over then-No. 17 Iowa State and Oklahoma State last week. The Longhorns, though, travel to Morgantown before facing No. 3 Kansas on Saturday in the first back-to-back true road games against top-10 teams in program history.

“Playing on the road is fun. It's a time when we really bond,'' said junior point guard Isaiah Taylor, who earned Big 12 player of the week honors Monday. Taylor has averaged 22.2 points and sports a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in five Big 12 games.

Texas – which has lost its only two road games in Big 12 play – has shot 41.3 percent in six games since center Cameron Ridley was lost to a broken left foot in mid-December. The Longhorns have relied more heavily on the 3-pointer but are shooting just 28 percent from behind the arc in that span.

West Virginia is allowing a Big 12-low 63.8 points per game while leading the league in 3-point field-goal percentage defense at 27.4.

The Mountaineers held two of the nation's top offensive teams to 37.3 percent from the field combined last week, limiting the Sooners – the best 3-point shooting team in the country – to 7 of 24 from beyond the arc. West Virginia forced 40 turnovers over the two games, but Texas has committed only 19 in its last three contests.

The Longhorns have shot 51.2 percent in their last five in this series, winning the first four before a 71-64 loss at West Virginia on Feb. 24.