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Mountaineers put up a fight, upset No. 25 Texas, 76-73

Jan. 14—With its back against a wall, West Virginia came out with a bout of toughness Saturday night it had yet to show all season.

The heroes were many and the individual moments were crucial on a night when the Mountaineers upset No. 25 Texas 76-73 inside the Coliseum.

"We needed that win for sure, " point guard Kerr Kriisa said after scoring 14 points. "We really mentally needed that win to show for ourselves and for the people of West Virginia, too.

"I'm just happy that we showed what we can do. If everybody stays on the same page, this should be the expectation here."

Behind some defensive maneuverings that came after WVU had given up so many points around the rim in losses against Houston and Kansas State, WVU (6-10, 1-2 Big 12) picked up its first signature win of the season, as well as it first victory against a top 25 team.

"A hard-fought victory, you know, I think it was a buy-in for us defensively, some changes schematically was probably the key, " WVU head coach Josh Eilert said. "Our guys did a heck of job the last couple of days and made those changes and locked in on it. It had a lot to do with coming out with a victory tonight."

Those changes saw WVU pack their players into the paint, almost daring Texas (12-4, 1-2) to take anything other than long-range shots.

The Longhorns began to hit those late, especially guard Max Abmas. He finished with seven of the Longhorns' nine 3-pointers and scored 32 points.

Yet Texas was playing from behind over the final 15 minutes of the game.

And just about everybody on the WVU roster contributed in some fashion.

Pat Suemnick scored a career-high 16 points and added six rebounds and RaeQuan Battle had 14 points.

His biggest play was a blocking Abmas' lay-up attempt at the rim that preserved 65-60 advantage with 2:05 left in the game.

There were so many other key stats. WVU guard Noah Farrakhan, maybe the smallest guy on the court, gave WVU seven rebounds.

Quinn Slazinski has been dealing with some confidence problems, yet he finished strong down the stretch with 10 of his 13 points coming in the second half.

Akok Akok nailed a huge 3-pointer and the Mountaineers forced a season-high 22 turnovers, while holding their own on the glass with a 32-31 rebounding advantage.

"They came out and really set the tone early with physical play, " Texas head coach Rodney Terry said. "We didn't value taking care of the ball early in the game."

Texas still managed 28 points in the paint, a far cry from what WVU allowed against Houston and Kansas State, and the Longhorns did manage to shoot 45.3 % (24 of 53), but WVU never backed down and never let the pace of the game to get out of hand.

"It's kind of the style the (Big 12) plays, " Eilert said. "I told them the average margin of victory (in the Big 12) is six and the winners are scoring 71. I was like, 'Guys, we're giving up 85 points a game after two games.'

"At the end of the day, in this league, you have to hang your hat on defense. The chemistry and the changes we made on defense is probably the reason we won."

Note WVU added freshman guard Aden Tagaloa-Nelson to the official roster on Saturday.

Tagaloa-Nelson is from Lexington, Ky., and doubles as a reserve safety on the WVU football team.

He appeared in one game this season, against Duquesne.

He played high school basketball at Woodford County High, where he helped his school reach the final 16 of the Kentucky state tournament.

He becomes the first WVU football player to join the hoops roster since former quarterback Jarrett Brown played in 13 games during the 2007-08 season.

Box score West Virginia 76, No. 25 Texas 73 TEXAS (12-4)

Cunningham 0-2 2-2 2, Disu 7-12 2-3 18, Mitchell 4-7 0-0 8, Abmas 9-17 7-8 32, Hunter 2-6 0-0 4, Weaver 1-2 3-6 5, Horton 0-3 0-0 0, Onyema 1-3 2-2 4, Shedrick 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-53 16-21 73.

WEST VIRGINIA (6-10)

Harris 1-1 0-0 2, Suemnick 5-7 6-12 16, Battle 5-11 4-4 14, K.Johnson 1-2 3-4 5, Kriisa 4-10 2-2 14, Farrakhan 1-8 3-4 5, Slazinski 2-4 7-10 13, Akok 2-3 2-3 7, Wilson 0-1 0-0 0, Naveh 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 21-47 27-41 76.

Halftime—West Virginia 30-28. 3-Point Goals—Texas 9-22 (Abmas 7-13, Disu 2-4, Cunningham 0-1, Horton 0-1, Weaver 0-1, Hunter 0-2), West Virginia 7-17 (Kriisa 4-8, Slazinski 2-3, Akok 1-2, Wilson 0-1, Battle 0-3). Fouled Out—Cunningham, Disu. Rebounds—Texas 31 (Onyema 8), West Virginia 31 (Farrakhan 7). Assists—Texas 7 (Abmas 3), West Virginia 11 (K.Johnson 3). Total Fouls—Texas 28, West Virginia 15. A—11, 565 (14, 000).