AUSTIN (AP) — After an embarrassing home loss two weeks ago, Texas coach Rick Barnes questioned whether his team was really one of the best in the country or just a bunch of “phony tough guys.”
Apparently not. The No. 20 Longhorns finally delivered a convincing answer Saturday night, dominating No. 16 West Virginia in a bruising 77-50 victory.
Cam Ridley scored 19 points and set the tone with a thunderous early dunk as the Longhorns (13-4, 2-2 Big 12) snapped a two-game skid. Jonathan Holmes added 16 points and 11 rebounds and Myles Turner scored 16 Texas routinely peppered the Mountaineers with dunks, blocks and ripped down rebounds at will.
“We have some toughness in us,” Holmes said. “The big thing now is doing it every night.”
Texas also weathered the Mountaineers’ withering pressure defense. The Longhorns had 19 turnovers but never let West Virginia set the tone with fast-break baskets beyond the opening 30 seconds.
Gary Browne scored 14 points for West Virginia (15-3, 3-2), which got into foul trouble early and shot just 25 percent in dropping its first loss away from home this season.
Texas was expected to be one of the most physical teams in the Big 12 this season but that seemed to disappear over the past month with three losses in five games and the 1-2 start in the Big 12 that included a punchless 21-point home loss to rival Oklahoma.
“We’re going to compete,” Barnes said. “(But) we hadn’t. I’m sure they got sick of me grinding on them. I thought we played with some pop.”
Against West Virginia, the Longhorns put the first half on Ridley’s big shoulders and he carried them through a dominant first 10 minutes with 12 points, including a pair of rim-rattling dunks and a block that brought the home crowd to its feet.
Holmes, who scored just four points in the two losses, had eight points and five rebounds as the Longhornsbuilt a 37-23 lead by halftime. Holmes’ early tussle with West Virginia’s Jonathan Holton resulted in technical fouls against both and set the physical tone for the rest of the game. Holton would foul out with seven points in just eight minutes.
“They tried to come in here and punk us and we didn’t let that happen,” Holmes said.
West Virginia seemed rattled by an early rash of fouls — 10 in the first 10 minutes — and struggled to penetrate Texas’ zone defense.
Texas maintained its double-digit lead through the first 10 minutes of the second half with Turner picking up the physical play inside. West Virginia’s Jevon Carter made three consecutive 3-pointers to keep Texas from pulling away but he couldn’t pull the Mountaineers closer.
The frustration kept mounting for West Virginia. At one point, Devin Williams was whistled for an offensive foul, then grabbed the ball and dunked it anyway, drawing a technical. The two free throws gave Texas a 15-point lead with just over nine minutes to play.
“They played the game the way they wanted to play it,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “They imposed their will on us and we didn’t respond to it very well.”