MORGANTOWN (AP) - If their first season together in the Big 12 Conference is to serve as any indication, the only thing separating West Virginia and Texas is the 1,400 miles between their campuses.
The basketball teams pulled that long distance closer together once again Monday night, playing the third football or basketball game between the two schools decided by four points or fewer.
And for the third time, the Mountaineers won, making good on the rematch of last month’s overtime game with a 60-58 win for 4,966 fans inside the Coliseum.
Deniz Kilicli’s three-point play with 3:35 to go gave WVU the space it needed to survive some silly, shaky moments late.
The Mountaineers, who haven’t been able to enjoy the entirety of their Big 12 experience, swept football and basketball games against what is widely assumed to be the Big 12’s marquee athletic department
“We’re similar teams,” Kilicli said. “They’re a young team, we’re a young team. They turn the ball over a lot, we turn the ball over a lot. That’s why it’s never a lot of points between us.”
The WVU football team won the October game 48-45 and the basketball team won 57-53 in Austin, Texas, last month.
Monday’s win gave the Mountaineers (11-11, 4-5 Big 12) their first winning streak since winning three straight games from Dec. 19-30.
A win Saturday against TCU, which WVU beat by 21 points two weeks ago, would put the team above .500 for the first time since Jan. 15.
“It’s two wins in a row, that’s all,” freshman Eron Harris said. “We’re trying to put wins in a row. We win Saturday, that’s three and another confidence-builder for us.”
Kilicli’s hook shot and free throw put WVU up 58-54, but the Mountaineers mismanaged a number of critical situations that followed. After his steal, Aaric Murray threw away a pass up the floor to Harris for a turnover.
Murray blocked a shot on the next possession and again threw ahead to Harris, who saved it from going out again before Juwan Staten missed a jumper.
After a Texas turnover, Harris threw the ball across the court deep on the WVU side to Gary Browne, but the ball sailed and went out before Browne could recover it.
Texas missed a jumper and Harris grabbed the rebound and was fouled, but made just 1 of 2 with 25 seconds to go for a 59-54 lead. Sheldon McClellan then pump-faked Kilicli at the 3-point line and drew a foul for three free throws. McClellan made two.
The Longhorns fouled Murray with 9.3 seconds left and he made 1 of 2 for a 60-56 lead. The Longhorns missed a 3, but McClellan got the rebound, dribbled back behind the line and pump-faked Murray for another three-shot foul with 0.7 seconds to go.
McClellan made the first two and Texas called a timeout to set up a play for an intentional miss, but WVU, which had Kilicli, Murray and Dominique Rutledge on the floor, escaped when Murray grabbed the rebound.
“I thought we were pretty good defensively,” said Huggins, whose team shot 46 percent and held Texas to 35 percent. “There was that stretch in the second half where we got up 11 and we got on the side of them and you can’t guard from the side. That’s a formula for disaster and we did that one too many times.”
Jabarie Hinds had 14 points for WVU. He had 13 combined the previous three games and was scoreless in Saturday’s win at Texas Tech. Kilicli added 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
“I thought he was terrific,” Coach Bob Huggins said. “He was so much more active.”
Huggins even offered a high-five and a hug for Kilicli during a late trip to the bench.
“I guess I did something good,” Kilicli said. “He doesn’t do it much, this year especially.”
Harris had 13 points, but on just 3-for-10 shooting while missing 6 of 8 3-point attempts. Terry Henderson had seven points and two 3s and Murray had eight rebounds with one point off the bench.
McClellan had 14 points for Texas (10-12, 2-7) and Javan Felix had all 12 of his points in the second half.
Julien Lewis and Ioannis Papapetrou both had 10 points for the Longhorns, who let a 13-point lead go to waste at home last month and managed to take a lead Monday after trailing by 11 in the second half.
Texas is 1-5 in games decided by five or fewer points or in overtime.
“We know we’re the youngest team in the country, but that doesn’t matter anymore,” Coach Rick Barnes said. “We’ve got to carry ourselves better in these situations.”
The crows was the smallest of the season because of an early-evening snowstorm, but a 3 from Harris early in the second half put Mountaineers up double-digits for the fourth time in nine conference games, this time 35-25.
WVU started 4-for-6 to open the second half, but then went 1-for-6 as Texas rallied. WVU had four turnovers in quick succession, including back-to-back possessions to give Texas scores. Felix warmed up his dribble and got free to score 10 points in a 16-3 run to put Texas ahead 49-47 at the 8:21 mark.
The teams would be tied twice and trade the lead three times the rest of the way and Kilicli’s key score built the largest lead either way down the stretch.
The Mountaineers reached their highest point in the first half from their lowest depth. Gary Browne’s turnover led to a Papapetrou layup and a 17-10 lead, the largest for Texas in the game. WVU outscored Texas 22-8 the rest of the half to take a 32-25 lead. The Mountaineers had 12 unanswered points in a 17-5 spurt and finished the half making 8 of 10 shots.