The West Virginia Mountaineers got everything they could handle from a tough Texas Tech team this afternoon, but got a huge lift off the bench from junior guard Tarik Phillip in the game’s final stages to avoid a third-straight loss.
With the 80-76 win, West Virginia moved to 16-3 overall and 5-2 in the Big 12, joining Oklahoma and Baylor atop the conference standings.
West Virginia trailed by four with just under a minute remaining, but Phillip engineered an 8-0 run with a deep 3, an old-fashioned 3-point play, and an emphatic slam in the final second of the game after Toddrick Gotcher’s attempt at a game-winning 3 bounced off the rim and was tapped out to mid-court.
Before the frenetic final 20 seconds, Texas Tech had the ball trailing by two and took a time out. Head coach Bob Huggins said he told his team to key in on Gotcher for the final possession.
“I thought they were going to flare Gotcher. That’s generally what they do when they need a basket…They kicked it out and Gothcer got a shot but it was kind of a hurried shot,” he said on the Northside Automotive Mountaineer Postgame Report from IMG.
West Virginia led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but a 10-1 run at the end of the half by the Red Raiders brought them right back into the thick of things. From then on, it was a back-and-forth affair until the very end.
“There was a lot of ebb and flow I guess as they say. We got up by 10 in the first half and then you look up and it’s a 1-point game again,” Huggins said.
Phillip was the star off the bench for the Mountaineers, but his backcourt bench running mate Jaysean Paige made a hefty contribution with 22 points of his own.
Foul trouble once again plagued the Mountaineers today. West Virginia was whistled for 28 fouls on the afternoon, and allowed Texas Tech 34 shots from the free throw line. The Red Raiders were lethal from the line in their own building, sinking 32-of-34 to keep the pressure on the Mountaineers and punish them for every shooting foul called.
“For all this stuff about us creating more offense, let’s let somebody guard somebody, and not foul, but let’s let somebody guard somebody,” Huggins said.
Junior forward Devin Williams fouled out for the third time this season after scoring just five points, and as a result, West Virginia needed another big man to step up. Senior Jonathan Holton answered the call with his typical energetic performance on defense, and contributed 13 points and six rebounds in the win.
“Jon Holton played with as much emotion as he has played with in a long, long time. He was very enthusiastic in the huddle,” Huggins said.
The Mountaineers will now trek back to Morgantown where they will meet up with the Kansas State Wildcats for the second time this season Tuesday night. West Virginia won a wild one in Manhattan in double overtime in the first conference game of the season.