Preview: WVU - Texas Tech

West Virginia has a good chance to get to 6-2 in the Big 12 Conference when it hosts Texas Tech on Saturday, but the Mountaineers learned a week ago that anything other than consistent good play could result in a league loss.


UPDATING THE RED RAIDERS

Since dropping an 11-point decision to WVU at the start of the month, the Red Raiders have continued a mostly losing trend, but one countered by a huge upset win over Iowa State. Head coach Tubby Smith's squad was unable to build off that victory, however, suffering what might have been its worst loss of the season in an 81-36 drubbing at the hands of Oklahoma on Wednesday night.

The highs and lows of rebuilding a program were never more evident than in those back to back games, but the lesson to be learned is plain. While Tech doesn't have as much talent as many of the teams it faces, it can beat anyone in the league it if can eliminate mistakes and not get run out of the gym early.

Tech has not yet won a game away from its home court, showing an 0-7 mark in road and neutral site games. It did give LSU all it wanted in a five-point overtime loss in Baton Rouge, but has been soundly defeated in all of its other travel efforts.

Devaugntah Williams (6-4, 205 lbs.) is the team's sole double-digit scorer, averaging 10.6 points per game. Behind him the Red Raiders (smilar to WVU) have a number of players contributing in the scoring column, as seven team members average between 8.8 and 5.2 points per outing. Rebounding, likewise, is a team effort, with Noresne Odiase (6-9 270 lbs.) leading the effort with 4.6 per game.

Also similar to WVU, Tech struggles to shoot the ball, and has dropped below the 40% mark from the field this year. Coupled with a low number of possessions and an inability to manufacture points by other means, Tech faces an uphill battle in just about every game it plays.


OUTLOOK

Right in the middle of a six-game stretch that will determine WVU's momentum heading into a brutal end of season schedule, this is a game the Mountaineers must win. That term is often applied to contests that are needed to halt a losing streak or determine positioning for post season play, but for WVU, it is this half-dozen that are truly vital.

The Mountaineers can't get caught looking ahead, though -- a lesson that they should have learned after last week's escape against TCU.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
Sat Jan 31
12:00 PM E
WVU Coliseum

Morgantown, WV
Records
WVU 17-3, 5-2
TT 11-10, 1-7
Series
WVU 6-1
TV
ESPNU
Sirius/XM
108/199
RPI
WVU - 15
TT - 170
WVU needs to play with its customary emotion and abandon, and can't worry about the fouls it commits or the mistakes that it makes. It simply needs to continue to play with great effort, and if can do these things, that should be enough to come out with its 18th win of the season.

Of course, head coach Bob Huggins would love to see some items cleaned up. Fouls such as the ones at the end of the K-State game, which allowed the home team to prolong the contest and get more possessions, need to stop. So too do the "automatic" fouls, such as the ones called when a defender places both hands on an opponent or bumps a dribbler in motion. Decision-making in the halfcourt, especially against overplaying defenders (look for Tech to overplay some passing lanes as K-State did in an attempt to generate some easy points of its own) must also improve. The mediocre-to-terrible transition game could also use a boost.

If West Virginia could just make marginal improvements in these areas (say, 2-3 fewer fouls and conversion of a couple more fast breaks) it would be that much more difficult to defeat. Four or six more points per game would have meant two more wins this year, and could likely be the difference in a handful of the conference games to come -- and this is a game that offers the opportunity to begin that upward trend.


FAST BREAKS

Texas Tech is 4-10 against ranked teams under Tubby Smith. From the time Bob Knight retired in 2008 until the hiring of Smith, Tech was 4-39 against ranked teams.

* * *

West Virginia is currently fourth nationally in fouls per game (23.2). Jackson, State, Morehead State and Wagner are the three teams getting whistled more often than the Mountaineers.

Even with that high rate,however, WVU opponents have committed five more fouls (468-463) than WVU has. Obviously, some of those have come in late game situations where foes are fouling to stop the clock and attempt to get the ball back, but this still relatively-even stat shows that the Mountaineers aren't getting overwhelmed due to fouls. WVU has also scored 19 more points at the free throw line that the opposition.

* * *

West Virginia does have some halfcourt defensive deficiencies that result in foes shooting a high percentage against it. However, the Mountaineers are excellent in points per possession allowed -- again owing to all the empty possessions opponents have due to turnovers and missed shots or free throws due to fatigue. West Virginia is allowing just .89 points per opponent possession -- an outstanding figure that ranks it 12th nationally. Texas Tech, which plays at a slower pace while yielding one less point per game than WVU, is good, but still trails WVU significantly with a .96 points per possession allowed number (82nd nationally).


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See what Mountaineer fans are saying here

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Since dropping an 11-point decision to WVU at the start of the month, the Red Raiders have continued a mostly losing trend, but one countered by a huge upset win over Iowa State. Head coach Tubby Smith's squad was unable to build off that victory, however, suffering what might have been its worst loss of the season in an 81-36 drubbing at the hands of Oklahoma on Wednesday night.

The highs and lows of rebuilding a program were never more evident than in those back to back games, but the lesson to be learned is plain. While Tech doesn't have as much talent as many of the teams it faces, it can beat anyone in the league it if can eliminate mistakes and not get run out of the gym early.

Tech has not yet won a game away from its home court, showing an 0-7 mark in road and neutral site games. It did give LSU all it wanted in a five-point overtime loss in Baton Rouge, but has been soundly defeated in all of its other travel efforts.

Devaugntah Williams (6-4, 205 lbs.) is the team's sole double-digit scorer, averaging 10.6 points per game. Behind him the Red Raiders (smilar to WVU) have a number of players contributing in the scoring column, as seven team members average between 8.8 and 5.2 points per outing. Rebounding, likewise, is a team effort, with Noresne Odiase (6-9 270 lbs.) leading the effort with 4.6 per game.

Also similar to WVU, Tech struggles to shoot the ball, and has dropped below the 40% mark from the field this year. Coupled with a low number of possessions and an inability to manufacture points by other means, Tech faces an uphill battle in just about every game it plays.


Right in the middle of a six-game stretch that will determine WVU's momentum heading into a brutal end of season schedule, this is a game the Mountaineers must win. That term is often applied to contests that are needed to halt a losing streak or determine positioning for post season play, but for WVU, it is this half-dozen that are truly vital.

The Mountaineers can't get caught looking ahead, though -- a lesson that they should have learned after last week's escape against TCU. WVU needs to play with its customary emotion and abandon, and can't worry about the fouls it commits or the mistakes that it makes. It simply needs to continue to play with great effort, and if can do these things, that should be enough to come out with its 18th win of the season.

Of course, head coach Bob Huggins would love to see some items cleaned up. Fouls such as the ones at the end of the K-State game, which allowed the home team to prolong the contest and get more possessions, need to stop. So too do the \"automatic\" fouls, such as the ones called when a defender places both hands on an opponent or bumps a dribbler in motion. Decision-making in the halfcourt, especially against overplaying defenders (look for Tech to overplay some passing lanes as K-State did in an attempt to generate some easy points of its own) must also improve. The mediocre-to-terrible transition game could also use a boost.

If West Virginia could just make marginal improvements in these areas (say, 2-3 fewer fouls and conversion of a couple more fast breaks) it would be that much more difficult to defeat. Four or six more points per game would have meant two more wins this year, and could likely be the difference in a handful of the conference games to come -- and this is a game that offers the opportunity to begin that upward trend.



Texas Tech is 4-10 against ranked teams under Tubby Smith. From the time Bob Knight retired in 2008 until the hiring of Smith, Tech was 4-39 against ranked teams.

* * *

West Virginia is currently fourth nationally in fouls per game (23.2). Jackson, State, Morehead State and Wagner are the three teams getting whistled more often than the Mountaineers.

Even with that high rate,however, WVU opponents have committed five more fouls (468-463) than WVU has. Obviously, some of those have come in late game situations where foes are fouling to stop the clock and attempt to get the ball back, but this still relatively-even stat shows that the Mountaineers aren't getting overwhelmed due to fouls. WVU has also scored 19 more points at the free throw line that the opposition.

* * *

West Virginia does have some halfcourt defensive deficiencies that result in foes shooting a high percentage against it. However, the Mountaineers are excellent in points per possession allowed -- again owing to all the empty possessions opponents have due to turnovers and missed shots or free throws due to fatigue. West Virginia is allowing just .89 points per opponent possession -- an outstanding figure that ranks it 12th nationally. Texas Tech, which plays at a slower pace while yielding one less point per game than WVU, is good, but still trails WVU significantly with a .96 points per possession allowed number (82nd nationally).

See what Mountaineer fans are saying here

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