By Mickey Furfari
Times West Virginian
The West Virginia University men’s basketball team, behind 47-40 late in the game, looked like another loser at Texas on Wednesday night.
But the Mountaineers (8-6, 1-1 Big 12) suddenly caught up with a burst of defense and scoring. Then they emerged 57-53 winners in overtime.
That was a refreshing turnabout for the young, struggling team. Instead of blowing a second-half lead, they rallied and refused to fold.
This obviously was encouraging for coach Bob Huggins. He had been running out of reasons trying to explain — and to end — mistakes his players were repeating.
But you could tell Huggins was somewhat relieved and content during his post-game comments with the media.
During one short stretch in the extra period, WVU controlled the ball a minute and 38 seconds with at least three rebounds off its board. That was really impressive.
So was the fact that the Mountaineers wound up with 45 rebounds to 39 by Texas. Kevin Noreen finished with a game-high 13 rebounds.
Aaric Murray, the other 6-foot-10 Mountaineer, chipped in 10 rebounds and 12 points.
West Virginia came up with 11 steals to go with four blocked shots.
Guard Jabarie Hinds scored 11 points. Gary Browne had nine, and senior Deniz Kilicli finished with eight points. He suffered a bleeding cut to the forehead early, but returned to action and continued to perform well.
The Mountaineers still have more work to become better.
They shot only 30.7 percent from the field (19 of 62), made just 3 of 20 shots from 3-point range (missing on 14 consecutive attempts), and committed 11 turnovers.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” a smiling Huggins said.
“I thought to their credit, down the stretch they needed to respond and did.
“They began to understand what we need to do at certain times. I’m proud of them.”
He noted that the players were in the right places as WVU kept changing defenses in the second half.
“We were all on the same page,” Huggins continued. “With that kind of enthusiasm and that kind of intensity, we are going to be fine.”
He noted that they made some good reads and executed some good plays.
“But everybody’s got to get better,” he added.
They feel they’ve found a way out of the doldrums.
West Virginia returns home Saturday to battle Kansas State, ranked No. 18 with a 12-2 overall record and 2-0 record in the Big 12.
Tipoff is 1:30 p.m.