The guards, on each inbound attempt, were panting and tired. They were yelling at one another and debating which person should take the inbound pass and go up against the daunting WVU full-court press. It was something West Virginia has encountered on a few occasions this year, and it has gotten to a point where they knew exactly what they needed to do.
"We're like sharks and we see blood in the water. We see the weakness and we just go after it," said senior guard Gary Browne. "When we get one steal, we want more. It gets us excited ... We live for that more than getting dunks or any kind of big play on offense."
The Mountaineers forced 26 turnovers against the Red Raiders - the fourth time this season a WVU opponent has committed at least 25 in a game - and most of those came in the second half as Texas Tech committed 15 turnovers in the game's final 20 minutes after heading to the locker room trailing by just six points.
West Virginia jumped out to an early 9-2 run, but weren't able to extend its lead much more throughout the first half as Texas Tech guard Robert Turner kept the Red Raiders close by pouring in 18 points in the opening period.
The tide began to turn midway through the half after a Isaiah Manderson dunk cut the Mountaineer lead to just three points. WVU responded by going on a 13-0 by making the most of its opportunities from the charity stripe. During the four-minute stretch where West Virginia went on the run that gave the Mountaineers their breathing room, the Mountaineers made eight of their 10 attempts from the free throw line while making things difficult for Texas Tech to score on the other end of the floor. The Red Raiders committed four turnovers and were 0-for-2 from the field during that time and attempted just 10 shots in the final 10 minutes of the first half.
West Virginia hit its stride in the second half, though. The Mountaineers started the half on a 16-2 run that allowed them to cruise the rest of the way.
"Even though we were turning it over in the first half, we were still making shots. That helped in the first half," said Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith. "WVU settled down and didn't turn it over in the second half, and we turned it over on five out of the first seven possessions and that's a remedy for getting beat."
WVU made 52 percent of its shots in the second half, and ended up outscoring Tech 40-27 in the game's final 20 minutes. They were able to rely on the leadership of Browne, senior Juwan Staten and sophomore Devin Williams to help the Mountaineers cruise to the victory with the big emergence in the second half.
Williams led the four Mountaineers in double figures with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Staten had 11 points and five assists and Browne finished with 10 points. Freshman Daxter Miles also scored 12 and had three steals.
"Leadership is not doing as I say, it’s doing as I do. Devin and Juwan are two guys who spend an enormous time in the gym," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. "Then, they can get on the other guys when they’re not doing what they supposed to do. In the past, basketball wasn’t important enough in some of my players’ lives. Others, basketball is their being. When they play bad, they’re miserable.
"Devin, Juwan and Gary put a lot of time in. Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles love being in the gym as well. That’s why we recruit guys like that."