In the 2022 Big 12 opener, No. 17 Texas rolls past a short-handed West Virginia team, 74-59, on Saturday afternoon. The Mountaineers played without fifth-year seniors Taz Sherman and Gabe Osabuohien, and freshman Kobe Johnson.
Just an hour before the game, West Virginia (11-2, 0-1 Big 12) announced that Sherman, Osabuohien and Johnson would be inactive due to being in COVID protocol. Obviously, this was a huge loss for the Mountaineers since all three players are in the usual rotation for Bob Huggins. Sherman leads WVU in scoring, averaging 20.9 points per game. Texas (11-2, 1-0 Big 12) was fully healthy, which is impressive during what’s going on in the world of college basketball.
So with three rotation players out against a top 25 team, who was going to step up?
Well, really nobody did other than Jalen Bridges. The production from everyone else was about the same as if Sherman, Osabuohien and Johnson were playing.
Bridges started out the game with a three. Bridges was playing a little bit more aggressive because he had to. The sophomore forward made a great play in the second half, dunking on a Longhorn defender, but ruined the moment by taunting. Bridges was charged with a technical foul, awarding Texas’ Marcus Carr two free-throws.
Bridges lead the Mountaineers in scoring, stepping up when needed. This marks the second game this season where Bridges has led the team in scoring, first time was against Pitt with 18. On Saturday, Bridges finished with 18 on 7-of-11 shooting.
It seemed like Cottrell was going to help out Bridges and Sean McNeil with the missing scoring production from Sherman, even playing aggressive for most of the game. Cottrell missed his first shot terribly, hitting only the backboard, but was able to get it going with a mid-range shot shortly after. Cottrell did go for the ball, demanding it in the post at times, but just could not get any shots to fall against Texas. Cottrell shot 3-of-9 from the field, scoring six points.
WVU’s defense kept the Mountaineers in the game until mid-way through the first half. It was a team effort led by Texas’ Carr and Courtney Ramey, who started to make shots against the irritating West Virginia defense. The Longhorns got the ball moving around, finishing with nine three’s made on Saturday.
Without their offensive general in Sherman, the Mountaineers committed their season high in turnovers with 20. Texas was able to take advantage, scoring 14 points off of the WVU mistakes.
By the first media timeout in the second half, West Virginia lost all of their energy that they had; they got tired. WVU never lead once in the game. Without anything to play for, the Mountaineers went through the motions for the rest of the game, losing 74-59.
Notable scorers were Bridges (18), Curry (14) and McNeil (12).
West Virginia will look forward to potentially bringing back Sherman, Osabuohien and Kobe Johnson on Jan. 8, when WVU hosts Kansas State for their Big 12 home opener. The game is set to tipoff at 2 p.m. on ESPN+.