AUSTIN, Texas -- When the Texas Longhorns needed a lift on Tuesday against the 10th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers, it was freshman guard Eric Davis Jr. -- an unlikely source given his recent contributions -- who answered the call.
Davis canned all four of his 3-point shots in a six-minute stretch of the first half on the way to totaling 15 points, all before halftime, and the 24th ranked Longhorns survived a final parry from the Mountaineers to post a crucial 85-78 win on Tuesday in Big 12 Conference action.
Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor poured in 23 points and dished out seven assists as the Longhorns (17-9, 8-5 in Big 12 play) defeated their league rival for the second time this season. Texas showed no ill effects from their two road losses to ranked conference teams last week that dropped them out of the top-25.
Davis had scored a total of seven points in his past four games combined but was on the mark as the Longhorns (who are now 13-1 at home) surged past West Virginia on his back-to-back 3-pointers beginning at the 6:39 mark of the first half.
"I just wanted to stay confident and the team and the coaching staff have helped keep me that way," Davis said. "Shooting is just like target practice, and they want me to keep shooting. I'm always the most confident of the freshmen -- I stay confident. I felt really good after the first (3-pointer) went in."
Texas coach Shaka Smart said Davis was really down when the Longhorns got back from Iowa State early Sunday morning after he had a few sub-par games in a row.
"Eric got back in the gym and went to work," Smart said. "He found some extra energy and it made a difference. The little run -- the big run, actually -- that Eric had in the first half with his 3-pointers really changed our team's whole approach and the game. That won us the game."
West Virginia never got closer than the nine points in the second half until the final 1:02 when reserve guard Tarik Phillip nailed a 3-pointer to bring the Mountaineers (20-6, 9-4 in Big 12) to within 75-69. Texas was able to cement the win by hitting its free throws down the stretch.
West Virginia trailed by as many as 15 points for most of the second half thanks to a horrid seven-minute stretch in which it missed eight of its 10 attempts from the floor.
Mountaineers' coach Bob Huggins said injuries that kept guards Jaysean Paige and Daxter Miles Jr. out of the game made things too difficult to overcome.
"We got tired because we're short-handed and we extend too much energy with the way we play," Huggins said. "But give Texas credit; they made their shots."
The Longhorns also got 11 points from guard Javan Felix added 11 points while freshman reserve guard/forward Tevin Mack hit for 10 points.
West Virginia was led by Phillip's 19 points. Forward Devin Williams added 19 points and a game-high 12 rebounds and forward Jonathan Holton scored 10 points for the Mountaineers. West Virginia outrebounded Texas 40-22.
Texas' prowess from long distance propelled it to a 45-36 lead at halftime. The Longhorns were 7 of 12 from 3-point range in the first half.
The Mountaineers' poise and ability to withstand Texas' full-court press were the difference in the game's early moments as West Virginia forged a 12-4 lead at the 17:45 mark. The Longhorns fought back, finally tying the game at 24 on a 3-pointer by Davis with 6:39 to play in the half.
Two more Davis 3-pointers were sandwiched around a basket from beyond the arc by forward Connor Lammert as Texas took a 33-32 lead at the 3:14 mark.
Both teams were on the mark from the floor in the first half, as the Mountaineers outshot Texas 62.5-61.5 percent.
"We went to a zone defense, which obviously didn't work," Huggins said. "It's hard to change things at this time of the season. How hard can we go in practice when we're playing two games a week against some of the best teams in the nation? It's tough, but the reality is we are not the team we were playing our best."
NOTES: Texas is 3-0 this year at home against AP Top 20 opponents and is 5-3 this season against AP Top 20 opponents. ... The Longhorns are 3-2 this season against AP Top 10 teams with wins against No. 3 North Carolina and twice against West Virginia (when the Mountaineers were ranked sixth and 10th). ... Texas has won six of the last seven contests against West Virginia. ... Junior PG Isaiah Taylor carried a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio (126-45) on the year, including a 4 to 1 ratio (65-16) in Big 12 play into Tuesday's contest. ... West Virginia has achieved 20 wins in a season for the 30th time in school history and the sixth under coach Bob Huggins. ... Mountaineers G Daxter Miles Jr. was injured late in Saturday's game vs. TCU and did not play. "I don't play guys that don't practice because they are not prepared to play," Huggins said.