|Field Goal %||38.2||41.9|
|Three Point %||16.7||26.3|
|Free Throw %||70.8||56.3|
The West Virginia Mountaineers (8-5, 0-1) came up short against the 11th ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders (12-1, 1-0) in the Big 12 opener 62-59 Wednesday night inside the WVU Coliseum. Texas Tech came into the game shooting 49.3 % from the field but only shot 38% on the evening. West Virginia couldn’t take advantage of the Red Raiders off night, as the Mountaineers had 22 turnovers and missed 14 free throws in the three-point loss.
It was a slow start for both squads. A combined nine points was scored in the first six minutes of the game as the Red Raiders was holding on to a 6-3 lead. Then, Derek Culver and Beetle Bolden hit turnaround jumpers and a Lamont West three gave WVU a 7-0 run.
The next four possessions for West Virginia resulted in four turnovers. However, Texas Tech was unable to hit their shots, even when they had open looks, shooting under 30% to start the game, as a Lamont West three put the Mountaineers up five.
West Virginia built a nine-point lead before going 1-5 from the free throw line, going 0-4 from behind the arc and three turnovers got Texas Tech back within two at halftime, 22-20. Lamont West and Beetle Bolden led the Mountaineers with seven points.
Texas Tech’s Davide Moretti hit a three and was fouled by Jermaine Haley for a four-point play, starting off an 11-0 run for the Red Raiders to open the second half. Texas Tech was in control and the game was seemingly getting away from the Mountaineers.
West Virginia did not fold in the moment. The Mountaineers were battling the No. 11 team in the country and clawed their way back into the game. They were attacking the paint with Derek Culver and Lamont West was hitting from the outside. The Mountaineers reclaimed the lead on a West three pointer with 7:55 left to go in the game.
Brandone Francis responded with a three, regain the lead for the Red Raiders. Lamont West went right back at the Red Raiders with a dunk and a lay up, giving the Mountaineers back the lead 48-46 with 5:52 remaining.
After Jarret Culver laid it to give Texas Tech the lead, Jermaine Haley walked the ball up the floor and as the defender was playing off him, he pulled up on the wing for three and buried it, putting the Mountaineers up two.
With 2:21 left in the game, Esa Ahmad hit a pair of free throws giving West Virginia the two-point advantage, before David Moretti hit a three. WVU followed that up with back to back turnovers and a missed three-pointer from Chase Harler as the Red Raiders were holding onto a five-point lead with 25 seconds left in the game.
Lamont West did score five points as time was winding down and a missed free throw from Moretti got the Mountaineers within three. With no timeouts and three seconds on the clock, West Virginia’s Brandon Knapper had enough time to push it up to half-court and the running jumper was too strong as it banked off the backboard.
“We turned it over 22 times to their 13.” West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins commented after the game. “We had guys open, and we didn’t get them the ball. We had a hard time guarding those curls, those tight curls and flex action. You have to have somebody with enough courage to catch it up there and break the defense down and make a pass. We kept searching. You can’t throw it to yourself.”
Huggins had more remarks on the turnovers. “Well, our offense had a lot to do with that. We are very charitable. People struggle, we throw them the ball, make it easier for them. That’s how the whole thing started. They had three guys down there, they shot a layup, and there were three of their guys in the paint and none of ours.”
Before the last pair of free throws by Texas Tech’s David Moretti, West Virginia set up a press and Beetle Bolden got in front of Jarrett Culver, trying to draw the charge and a call was not made despite Culver jumping up into Beetle.
“When you jump up in the air and runover a guy – and the guy is stationary – when you leave the ground and jump forward, it’s generally a charge.” Said Huggs. “But I haven’t seen it on tape, and I didn’t have near the look that the officials had.”
It’s a tough no call that didn’t go the Mountaineers way with seconds remaining but Bob Huggins contributed the loss to turnovers. He also noted that the free throw line issues and questioned whether his players where putting in the work necessary to win games.
“The reality is, we’re 18-32 from the foul line.” Stated Huggins. “We missed 14 free throws. We’re up nine, we have our best shooter on the line, and he goes 1 for 3. We’re not making any shots, and I thought that was the one thing we would be able to do is have people who could make shots. And our upperclassmen, we thought, could carry those freshmen until those freshmen got ready to play. Wes (Harris) is 1 for 7. Esa Ahmad is 1 for 4, Logan (Routt) is 1 for 2, Chase (Harler) is 0 for 4, Beetle (Bolden) is 4 for 8. Beetle got hurt again. Lamont West is 6 for 9. That’s a far cry from what we’ve had before from our upperclassmen. We’ve got one who is 4 for 20 in his last (3-point shots), and overall, he’s 6 for 28 in the last three games. You would think it would behoove him to get in the gym and maybe drag about four or five guys with him. You would think.”
Even though the Mountaineers lost, there has been progression. The emergence of Culver in the paint has been a key the last two games and seemingly there is more continuity on offense. There’s still a struggle at times to get the ball down in the post. Culver being in the paint has also led to better rebounding.
The defense has been getting better but there is still a lot of blown assignments that lead to easy baskets around the rim. Huggins has been tinkering with the lineup the last two games and went with a bigger lineup in the second half.
“I think I went big because I was tired if the little guys standing on the side of their guy and get straight-line driven.” Explained a frustrated Huggins. “This game’s about straight lines, and we just give them up there, and we don’t make people work for them, and I’m tired of of telling them, and I’m tired of trying to coach them, and it’s just going to come down to if you get a straight line drive on you, just come sit down and give someone else a try.”
They’ll get another opportunity Saturday night in Austin, Texas at 9:00 pm est on ESPN2.