The Texas Tech Red Raiders ran into a ferocious blizzard from the state of West Virginia, but for most of the evening, their defense was sufficient to see them through. But when that defense collapsed, there was then nothing standing between the Red Raiders and a bar-ditch on the side of an icy road. The West Virginia Mountaineers (14-1, 2-0 in Big 12) shot 62 percent from the floor in the second half, and broke open a tight game en route to a 78-67 win over Texas Tech (10-5, 0-2).
As coach Tubby Smith and guard Toddrick Gotcher attested afterward, Texas Tech had not seen a defense as aggressive as West Virginia’s. The Mountaineers deployed a full-court trapping press after every made basket, and in the process, harassed the Red Raiders into 22 turnovers. Texas Tech, on the other hand, forced only eight turnovers from the visitors, and allowed them to connect on 48 percent of their attempts from the field. WVU’s defensive superiority was the decisive factor in this game.
But for most of the contest, it appeared as though Tech would be in it until the end.
The Red Raiders actually led for most of the first six minutes of the game, and it wasn’t until Jevon Carter’s 3-pointer gave West Virginia a 14-11 lead with 13:55 remaining in the half that the Mountaineers enjoyed a lead of more than two points.
WVU extended that lead to 23-13 on a Daxter Miles layup at the 7:57 mark and it looked like Tech might be in trouble. But as the Red Raiders have done so often this season, they rallied back.
On the strength of a Devaugntah Williams layup, two free throws and two 3-balls from Gotcher, Tech totally erased West Virginia’s lead and the score stood at 23 apiece with 6:12 remaining in the half.
Unfortunately—and this happened on a few occasions during the game—the Red Raiders were unable to actually reclaim the lead. The Mountaineers responded to Tech’s rally with a spurt of their own, and a Juwan Staten jumper with 1:38 to play sent the Mountaineers to a 32-25 lead.
Two Gotcher free throws and a Williams trifecta trimmed WVU’s lead back, and the score stood at 32-29 when the teams broke for the locker rooms.
The game was close at the break despite the fact that Tech had 14 turnovers while West Virginia had only two. A 24-15 advantage on the glass helped the Red Raiders’ cause.
The early second half was much like the first half, and when Gotcher knocked down two free throws at the 13:34 mark it was till anybody’s game, as West Virginia led only 46-40.
But Juwan Staten, who had scored only three points in the first half, began to heat up, Devin Williams took charge up front, and then it was off to the races for the Mountaineers. Staten scored 13 points in the second half, while Williams kicked in nine.
Tech, stymied by the press, had no answer.
Tubby Smith went to a zone defense for much of the second half, but it was singularly ineffective. The Mountaineers found holes in the zone and Tech had trouble boarding the few WVU misses. West Virginia beat Tech by nine on the glass in the second stanza.
A pair of Zach Smith free throws with 2:20 to play pared a WVU lead, which had earlier swelled to 15 points, to 69-61, but that was Tech’s last hurrah. The Mountaineers hit enough free throws and Tech missed enough shots down the stretch to ensure that the outcome would not be seriously in doubt.
The Red Raiders are next in action at 2:00 Central time, Saturday, January 10 in Lawrence, Kansas against the Kansas Jayhawks.
West Virginia Smothers Red Raiders
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