It was almost poetic justice that West Virginia lost Tuesday night's contest to Texas Tech by allowing Anthony Livingston to shoot a wide open three-pointer in the corner with six seconds remaining. The Mountaineers suffered several defensive lapses and consistently left Tech's shooters open for easy buckets, allowing the Red Raiders to shoot 51 percent form the field on the night. That shot, of course, proved the most damning of those lapses as it gave the Red Raiders a 77-76 lead with little time remaining and ended up being the game winner.
Through the first 13 games of the season the Mountaineers rarely allowed teams to run their offenses, but the Red Raiders consistently broke West Virginia's pressure and forced the Mountaineers to play half-court defense. The Red Raiders committed only 13 turnovers on the night - the lowest total the Mountaineers have allowed on the season. While Texas Tech should be commended for it's ability to scheme against the press and get into its sets there is no denying that the Red Raiders were assisted by a very tightly called game by the Big 12 officiating crew. The crew called 51 fouls on the night (26 of those fouls were called against the Mountaineers) and it seemed to play a role in how effective and aggressive the Mountaineers played in their full court pressure defense.
While defensive lapses proved to be a major contributing factor in the loss, it was only one of a plethora of mistakes that did West Virginia in. The Mountaineers committed 14 turnovers (including several untimely traveling calls) and rarely looked comfortable setting up half-court offense of their own. The offense often moved slowly and leading scorer Esa Ahmad scored all 13 of his points in the first half, meaning he went 25 consecutive minutes without scoring a single point after his hot start. West Virginia did manage to shoot 47 percent from the field, but it shot just 54 percent from the free throw line, and that will no doubt be one of the biggest story lines coming out of Tuesday night's loss.
After watching West Virginia struggle from the charity stripe early in the year you just knew that free throw shooting would eventually cost the Mountaineers in a close a game and you could make a strong argument that it was the leading cause in the one point loss. The Mountaineers shot 24 free throws on the night and made just 13 of those. Half of the Mountaineers' free throws occurred in the five minute overtime period and the Mountaineers made just six of those. WVU was especially putrid form the line in the first few sequences of OT, as they made just one of their first six foul shots. After the game Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins spoke to IMG's Tony Caridi about the poor performance from the stripe.
"It's disappointing because I ask for a practice facility because we can't get in the coliseum and shoot and then we come in here and miss free throw after free throw after free throw in the overtime," Huggins said. "Really we didn't make any the whole game."
Although you can certainly critique many aspects of West Virginia's play in the loss, the one thing that you can't criticize the Mountaineers for is effort. West Virginia played hard and kept battling and despite being outplayed by the Red Raiders, the Mountaineers were never out-hustled. At the end of the day it was simply sloppy play and a lack of focus that cost the Mountaineers the game, and both of those issues can be fixed going forward.