The victory, the Mountaineers' seventh straight since the Dec. 4 home loss to LSU, was everything the defeat against the Tigers wasn’t. West Virginia was effective in the half court in the opening half, it rebounded the ball off its own misses and it defended the rim effectively enough against a Tech team that failed to finish adequately – the Raiders missed 12 of their final 18 shots. The energy level was lacking, certainly, and the Red Raiders greatly aided WVU with sloppy ball handling and decision making in the passing game, as well as missing free throws throughout the game, especially down the stretch. But in the very definition of a workmanlike performance, West Virginia gained the needed victory and prepares to enter a two-game home stand at 14-1 overall, 2-0 in Big 12 play after a win against TCU on Saturday.
“The best thing about this is we won and we don’t have to come back to Lubbock,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said on the MSN by IMG postgame radio show. “That’s terrific.”
And that’s about the extent, honestly, of what can be noted about this one. West Virginia did get the typical consistency of Juwan Staten and Gary Browne, as well as an emerging Devin Williams. Staten, just one contest after missing action due to flu-like symptoms – he vomited after this game – seemed to recover enough to handle the point in a far-too-many 37 minutes of play, getting help at times from Browne and, inside the final eight minutes, Jevon Carter. The senior hit for a team-best 16 points, but did force the action at times in the opening 20 minutes.
Browne finished with 12 in a solid hustle effort, but did, as Huggins said, try and do too much at times. Williams played perhaps his best second half of the season, totaling 14 points on six of eight shooting with six rebounds. Williams made multiple major plays over the final five minutes, limiting Tech second chances on the defensive end and getting putback chances for WVU on offense. Outside of that, much of the remainder of the game, and of the players on both sides, were quite mediocre. It was a sluggish, stagnant, flat performance marred by 47.6 percent shooting for the visitors (but 62 percent in the second half) and just 41.3 percent – including point blank misses at times – for Texas Tech (10-5, 0-2).
“That was two bad shooting teams today,” Huggins said. “They did make their threes and we didn’t make any threes. We have to get back to doing some things fundamentally. That was my fear when we went to the pressure is you live on trying to steal the ball. We have to get back to doing some things (defensively) in the half court. … We have to make shots. We aren’t going to win continuing to play like we did today. Our shot preparation isn’t very good. We took shots before we were ready.”
Jonathan Holton was the most egregious of perpetrators, and ended up just two of five shooting in 18 minutes with five rebounds, but none on offense. Nathan Adrian again struggled with accuracy, missing all four of his shots, two from three-point range. Just one West Virginia bench player, Jevon Carter (11 points) scored more than four points as the Raiders surprisingly edged bench scoring 25-20. Tech also had managed a 35-35 tie on the boards.
“I wrote two things on the board at halftime: Attitude and enthusiasm,” Huggins said. “If we don’t have attitude and intensity, we can’t play. We have to make hustle plays. That’s an area we didn’t do a very good job. Attitude and intensity should never change. I don’t want an explanation, I want you to get your butt there.”
West Virginia failed to reach at least 10 steal for the first time this season, ending with nine in forcing Tech into 22 turnovers. On a positive note, Carter has 15 steals in the last three games and WVU turned the ball over just four times in its first 50 possessions against Tech; at the same point, the Raiders already turned the ball over 15 times. There were just two turnovers in the first half for the Mountaineers compared to 10 for Tech, and the Mountaineers put themselves in position to win the game with a 16-2 run to lead 55-40 with 10:21 left.
Huggins admitted the short week contributed to some of the issues, noting that WVU didn’t do fundamental things, but that it’s hard to do fundamental things with less preparation and games quickly following each other. The Mountaineers now do not play until Saturday, when they host No. 17 Iowa State.