West Virginia-Texas Preview
Isaiah Taylor hasn’t been up to par since returning for Texas.
West Virginia has plenty of respect for Taylor, though believes its full-court pressure can add to his woes.
The No. 16 Mountaineers force more turnovers than anyone in the nation and look to harass Taylor on the road Saturday and hand his 20th-ranked Longhorns a third straight loss.
Texas (12-4, 1-2 Big 12) began the season ranked 10th with expectations high for Taylor, who had team highs of 444 points and 141 assists in 2013-14 as a freshman. The guard, however, missed 10 games with a wrist injury before returning for the start of conference play Jan. 3.
It hasn’t been a smooth transition for Taylor, who is averaging 9.3 points on 25.7 percent shooting in his three games back.
"I think he’s taken some early shots in transition that haven’t been great shots for him because he’s a better shooter than what his numbers are right now," coach Rick Barnes said. "I think he’s pressing on that end."
The Longhorns haven’t played since last Saturday’s 69-58 defeat at Oklahoma State in which they shot 34.4 percent. That came on the heels of a 70-49 home defeat to then-No. 16 Oklahoma on Jan. 5 in which they connected at 30.0 percent.
Texas beat West Virginia (15-2, 3-1) three times last season by an average of 15.0 points, shooting 53.5 percent. Javan Felix averaged a team-high 17.7 points and shot 51.2 percent for the Longhorns while Jonathan Holmes chipped in with totals of 40 points and 26 boards while shooting 61.9 percent.
Taylor was held in check with totals of 28 points, eight assists and 10 turnovers. The Mountaineers remain wary of him.
"I think what he presents that a lot of people don’t present is that he shoots that floater, as soon as he gets inside 15 feet he shoots that floater and he shoots it extremely well," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.
The coach believes this season’s team is more equipped to compete with Texas since West Virginia is forcing 22.3 turnovers per game. The Mountaineers forced 22 turnovers in Tuesday’s 86-65 home rout of the No. 18 Sooners.
Huggins isn’t worried that the Longhorns will have a full week to prepare for his club’s full-court pressure.
"I think it’s an advantage, don’t get me wrong," Huggins said. "But I don’t think you can simulate what we do."
Freshman Jevon Carter scored 18 to lead Tuesday’s big effort from the reserves, who totaled a season-high 55. The bench helped make up for leading scorer Juwan Staten’s season-low four-point, 1-of-9 shooting effort, though he matched a season best with eight assists.
Staten averaged 13.7 points on 39.0 percent shooting against the Longhorns last season.
The Longhorns’ current problems can’t just be attributed to Taylor. Holmes is 2-for-19 for four points in the consecutive defeats, missing all 10 shots last Saturday in the third scoreless effort of his career.
"I think he’s also pressed a little bit in terms of getting anxious," Barnes said.
Huggins can pass Hall of Famer Henry Iba for 13th place on the all-time Division I list with his 756th victory.
Texas leads the series, 5-3. The first five meetings were all decided by four points or fewer.