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Brut and beautiful: Some sipped mimosas, others roared as Texas starts Big 12 with a win

Fans come roaring to life for Texas’ defense: ‘You know, they gave us a lot of life, a lot of energy.’

Maybe 2022 will be different. The new year started with a new vibe from Texas fans.

When Marcus Carr and Courtney Ramey tied up two West Virginia players for a shot clock violation, the 12,864 fans at the Erwin Center came to life Saturday. 

No hangovers here. They got on their feet and started roaring. The place was electric. It was a standing ovation, darn near an unbelievable sight.

Does that matter? “One hundred percent," UT guard Marcus Carr said. “You know, they gave us a lot of life, a lot of energy.”

When the Longhorns forced a five-second call for another Mountaineers turnover, coach Chris Beard came flying off the bench and punched the air Mike Tyson style. Horns fans went wild.

And when Andrew Jones dived after a loose ball that rolled out of bounds, the Texas bench went crazy, and so did those in the stands.

Beard’s message is breaking through. Defense, a basketball art form all its own, can be appreciated. West Virginia was forced into a season-high 20 turnovers as No. 17 Texas won its Big 12 opener 74-59 in what Beard called the first victory of “an 18-round fight.”

Texas guard Marcus Carr celebrates a basket as teammate Courtney Ramey trails him during the first half of Saturday's Big 12-opening 74-59 win over West Virginia. Carr finished with a team-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

“I think everybody’s starting to recognize who we are and the team that Coach put together and the type of defensive mind that we have,” Carr said. “So it’s good to see that they cheer for us when we get those kinds of things, because those are the kind of things that excite us.”

Fans in the upper deck rang in the new year with $10 tickets and mimosas. Brut and beautiful. 

Texas (11-2) is now feeling bubbly too, with road games at Kansas State and Oklahoma State on the docket this week.

More:No. 17 Texas feasted on easy nonconference foes, but West Virginia bites back

“I think these Texas fans, they like to win,” Beard said. “They like hard-playing guys that represent the city and the school. They like defense and stops, and they like scoring. They like wins. They like mimosas. I think a lot of them like beer and pretzels. Naw, we’re really appreciative of our fans. They impacted the game.”

The Mountaineers may put an asterisk next to the final score, though. West Virginia (11-2, 0-1) was without three players, including leading scorer Taz Sherman (20.9 points per game), due to COVID-19 protocols. The school made the announcement one hour before tipoff.

West Virginia guard Malik Curry pushes past Texas' Andrew Jones during Saturday's 74-59 Longhorns win. The Mountaineers were missing three players because of COVID-19 protocols, including Taz Sherman, their leading scorer.

“Obviously when you play without the best player in the league, it’s going to affect you,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “He's been the best player in the league so far.”

It was a one-possession game 10 minutes in, but Texas put the clamps on and had a 39-20 lead at the break. 

Courtney Ramey hit two corner 3-pointers and two midrange shots in the first half. Carr hit a fadeaway 3-pointer. Tre Mitchell scored on a nice pivot off the low block. And Jones capped an 18-2 run with a 3-pointer of his own.

More:With family behind him, Texas’ Courtney Ramey rebounds in blowout over Incarnate Word

Meanwhile, West Virginia literally gave away some possessions and had 12 turnovers before halftime.

“They didn't take it from us much. We threw it to them,” Huggins said.

When Carr hit a jumper just before the halftime buzzer, Beard sprinted off the floor ahead of the Horns. Ramey threw up his arms for the crowd to make more noise. 

Nothing was lost in translation at halftime, apparently. The Mountaineers started the second half with four turnovers, including one when Carr stole the inbound pass after UT’s Timmy Allen made two free throws.

Carr scored easily, and Texas had a 21-point lead with 19 minutes left. That play seemed to ignite his second-half surge. Carr finished with a team-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting while Ramey finished with 15 and Jones had 14.

Huggins was beside himself, like when he watched Jalen Bridges throw a bad pass away for a turnover. Bridges would later get a dunk and then a technical foul for complaining about no foul called. At one point, West Virginia missed six straight shots as Texas pushed its lead to 28.

Texas fans wear New Year's party hats at Saturday's game in the Erwin Center. The Longhorns' Big 12 opener drew 12,864. “I think everybody’s starting to recognize who we are and the team that Coach put together and the type of defensive mind that we have,” UT guard Marcus Carr said.

“We did not run offense. For whatever reason, I don't know,” Huggins said. “We’ve got a set that we run to start practice every single day. And you would think if they run it in practice every single day that you could put it in. And we put it in, and they didn't run it.”

Oddly enough, West Virginia did find a late spark and made eight of nine shots. Texas still had a 20-point lead, so it was mostly box score window dressing.

Still, Beard needs something he can chew on for the next few days, and that four-minute stretch is likely pitch-perfect. The best scoring defense in Division I can always sharpen things around the edges. 

“The rankings come out, and they say we’re the No. 1 defense,” Carr said, “but we still see areas every single day in the film where we can improve, so we’re never complacent in that department.”

Texas guard Andrew Jones celebrates a 3-point basket during the second half of the Longhorns' win over West Virginia. Texas' next two games will be on the road.

The Horns were without guard Jase Febres, who had a minor left knee issue. “Expect him to be back by the next game,” Beard said. 

Dylan Disu also had a quiet day. He played eight minutes, had no points and was riding a stationary bike on the sideline. Beard said trainers reported that Disu had a mild ankle issue but was cleared for the second half. 

More:Texas transfer Dylan Disu’s knee, athleticism sure look solid in win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff

In the Big 12 race, all coaches can ask is a clean break from the gate. Texas certainly did that. The next two months are full of unknowns. 

With a strong defense backed by a solid fan base, these Longhorns seem capable of anything.

“We don’t talk much about winning in our locker room. We talk about process,” Beard said. “Let’s win today. After the game, enjoy the game. Hydrate, rest, training room, spend some time, release, balance, get a good night’s rest tonight, come back in here tomorrow and see where we’re at.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.