Texas guard Isaiah Taylor drives against West Virginia's Tarik Phillip at the Frank Erwin Center on Tuesday, Feb 16, 2016. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Men's Basketball

No. 24 Texas 85, No. 10 West Virginia 75: Eric Davis’ sizzling half sparks Horns

Horns bounce back from sloppy start, build 16-point lead in the second half

Posted February 16th, 2016

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Zen cannot be bound by space and time. And Texas baseball Augie Garrido’s deep-philosophical thinking cannot be contained solely within UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Who could’ve guessed Garrido’s mental approach would be front and center after the men’s basketball team’s 85-75 win over No. 10 West Virginia on Tuesday?

Coach Shaka Smart, a voracious reader, likes what he hears coming from the opposite side of Interstate 35. What applies to baseball applies to basketball — and just about anything else in life, really.

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“He said as players, whether it’s baseball or basketball, it is your responsibility to learn,” Smart said. “From learning comes confidence, comes success, comes all the good things you want to happen. But you have to take ownership of that learning.”

Freshman Eric Davis appears to be doing just that. After scoring only seven points in the last four games, Davis spent extra time in the gym on Sunday and Monday. The result was a seismic 15-point outburst helping No. 24 Texas (17-9, 8-5 Big 12) remain two games back in the league race.

Maybe more impressive, Texas is now 13-1 at the Erwin Center.

The Horns had an awful start, committing three turnovers in the first three minutes, 23 seconds. Center Prince Ibeh picked up a technical foul for swatting a ball away and standing over Tarik Phillip. Not exactly what Smart had in mind when he asked for more aggressiveness.

With many fans stuck in Austin’s famous rush-hour gridlock, West Virginia took an early 12-4 lead. “I think it was just jitters to start the game,” said Isaiah Taylor, who had a game-high 23 points and went 13 for 13 from the free throw line.

Using guards to inbound the ball and handle initial defensive traps, the Horns had little trouble breaking the Mountaineers’ vaunted press.

Davis cut the deficit to one with a 3-pointer on the wing. Then, he swished another. Connor Lammert connected from downtown on the next possession. Davis might as well try one more. Swish. “Yeah, definitely. That definitely was a heat check,” Davis said.

On the next go-round, Davis drove the lane and scored at the rim, a sizzling bucket that gave the Horns a 35-32 lead.

That burst turned the entire game around. The Horns shot 61.5 percent in the first half and held a nine-point lead at halftime. After making three turnovers early, Texas finished with seven for the entire game.

Javan Felix scored 11 points, and Tevin Mack added 10. As a team, Texas made 10 of 22 3-point shots and racked up 38 bench points, the highest total since December.

“Obviously, we’ve taken some tough losses, and it’s kind of hard to bring swagger,” Davis said. “So that was the biggest thing. Just bring a lot of energy. Swagger is basically energy. That’s all it is.”

West Virginia was already without two guards, and Jaysean Paige suffered an ankle injury with 8:55 remaining in the first half. “Take three perimeter guys out of anybody in this league, and they’re not as good,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said.

Despite being shorthanded, the Mountaineers whittled a 16-point deficit down to six with 1:04 remaining. But UT freshmen Kerwin Roach and Tevin Mack combined to hit four free throws, then Taylor closed it out with four of his own.

“Those are my boys,” Davis said of Roach and Mack. “I hang out with them a lot. Doing stuff the team needs is always a good feeling.”

A team with a long history of fading in February appears ready to chart a new course. That happens only if the players themselves decide losing is unacceptable, apparently.

Garrido preaches the players have to want it for themselves. To which Smart agrees wholeheartedly.

“At times, sometimes they just want to be spoon fed,” Smart said. “OK, we’re going to do our part, but you’ve got to take ownership of learning.”

Texas coach Shaka Smart celebrates against West Virginia on Tuesday at the Erwin Center. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas coach Shaka Smart celebrates against West Virginia on Tuesday at the Erwin Center. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

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