MORGANTOWN — The plan was to “Tazer” Texas.
And West Virginia University darned near shocked the country here Saturday.
With senior guard Taz Sherman providing the Mountaineers with their first lead of the game and the last, it appeared the “Tazer” tactics would work.
But despite Sherman’s heroics, the fourth-ranked Longhorns pulled off an improbable, last-second 72-70 win over the No. 14 Mountaineers in the WVU Coliseum.
It certainly wasn’t Sherman’s fault.
The 6-foot-3 shooting guard hit a 3-pointer with 14:10 remaining in the first half to tie the score, 13-13, and, then, 19 second later he sank two foul shots to give WVU its first lead at the 13:51 mark.
And Sherman wasn’t finished.
Far from it.
He swished another 3-pointer from the right wing to give WVU an 18-13 lead, hit an 18-footer from the left wing and finished off the first half with another three from the left wing.
At halftime, Sherman had a team-high 13 points and WVU had a 40-36 lead.
But the veteran Longhorns didn’t blink.
“It’s hard to guard a team that has five capable guys, who can score,” pointed out Sherman, “on the court at the same time.
Sure, Texas never led in the second half until the very end of the game. But the Longhorns also never trailed by many points.
Yet, Sherman still managed to “Tazer” Texas with a 15-foot jumper from the circle with 1:40 remaining to give WVU a fairly strong 70-65 lead.
The problem is the Mountaineers never scored again.
The undoing began with Emmitt Matthews missing two consecutive free throws with 10.8 seconds remaining and WVU clinging to a 70-69 lead.
That allowed Texas’ Courtney Ramey to push the ball, draw WVU’s defense to him and, then, find Andrew Jones camped in the right corner for a game-winning 3-pointer.
“We knew Ramey would drive downhill and create for somebody and he did,” said Sherman. “Our game plan was not to give up step-in threes and we gave up a three today.”
But is that what lost the game for the Mountaineers?
“There are a lot of plays that lead up to a close play at the end of the game,” said Sherman. “A lot of people want to say it was all on one play. But that wasn’t the case.”
Of course it wasn’t.
Any number of things could have happened to change the final outcome.
That thinking was easy to read on head coach Bob Huggins’ face during the post-game Zoom meeting.
“When you straight-line drive,” he said pointedly, “it isn’t always the defense that commits the foul.”
Yet, Huggins bowed to the Longhorns’ superior athleticism.
“We weren’t as athletic as they were,” he said. “They make up for a lot of mistakes with their athleticism.”
Meanwhile, Sherman continued to add to his body of work. In
WVU’s last three games he has scored 19, 20 and, now, 17 points.
Not bad for a guy who never starts.
Instead, he’s the “Tazer” off the bench that shocks defenses.
And he almost jolted Texas on Saturday.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.