Who: Texas Tech (18-10, 8-8) vs. West Virginia (22-7, 11-5)
Where: Morgantown, West Virginia, WVU Coliseum
When: Wednesday, March 2, 6:00 p.m. (CT)
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network
Notable: Texas Tech is 3-1 against Big 12 opponents who defeated the Red Raiders in the first meeting this season.
Quotable: “(Coach Tubby Smith) is playing a bunch of young guys and they’re starting to grow up. They’ve always defended well and now they’re scoring the ball better. “—West Virginia coach Bob Huggins on the Texas Tech Red Raiders
The current edition of Bob Huggins’ West Virginia Mountaineers won’t wow anybody with fast break aerobatics, scintillating shooting and dazzling dishes, but they beat just about everybody they play with tough defense and strong rebounding.
The only Mountaineers to make a major impact in the scoring line are Jaysean Paige who averages 14 points per game, and Devin Williams who averages 13. But WVU is plus-nine in rebounding margin, allows opponents to shoot just 42 percent from the field and 32 percent from three, plus has forced 527 turnovers (No. 2 nationally) while allowing only 304 assists. Put that in the mixer and whirl, and the result is the average score of a West Virginia basketball game is West Virginia 80 Victim State 66. That’s one heck of a scoring margin (No. 13 nationally).
But few teams are perfect, and WVU too has a couple of weakness. The Mountaineers turn the ball over 14 times per game, shoot only 67 percent from the free thrown line, and connect on only 32 percent of their 3-point attempts. If West Virginia shoots poorly from the line against the Red Raiders, who are excellent in that area, this will be a significant advantage for Texas Tech. Likewise, marginal shooting from deep would be a welcome relief for a Red Raider team that has not defended the perimeter particularly well.
West Virginia has won its last two games, defeating Oklahoma State on the road by 14, and Iowa State in Morgantown by 10. But in the two games before that the Mountaineers lost by 14 to Oklahoma at home and by seven to the Texas Longhorns in Austin.
Despite a nine-point loss to then No. 2 Kansas in Lawrence, Texas Tech’s NCAA tournament hopes are still very much alive, and a win over West Virginia in Morgantown would almost certainly cinch the deal for the Red Raiders.
Tech has played its best basketball of the season over the past month or so, and the efforts of Toddrick Gotcher and Aaron Ross have propelled that success. Gotcher has averaged 20 points per game over the last three contests, and leads the Red Raiders in scoring with 11 points per outing.
Ross has averaged 16 points and six rebounds over the last nine games, and averages 11 points and five boards for the season.
Keenan Evans' development at the point guard position has also been instrumental to Tech’s meteoric rise. The sophomore from Richardson, Texas now averages nine points and three assists per game.
As ever, free throw shooting is a prime strength for the Red Raiders. Tech’s 75.1 percent shooting from the stripe is good for No. 21 nationally, and the team is No. 43 in made free throws. The Red Raiders are also No. 70 in blocked shots per game.
Texas Tech is expected to do without the services of big man Norense Odiase for the 12th straight game.