The Mountaineers rallied to tie in the final seconds of regulation via Nate Adrian's similar three-pointer from the corner, then forged a 76-74 lead with 33 seconds left in overtime on Tarik Phillip's step-in three. But the Red Raiders, who had a timeout left, chose not to use it and quickly got the ball over midcourt, where the offense stagnated.
Niem Stevenson finally drove into the paint with just nine seconds left, drawing the defense before kicking to an open Livingston. The forward swished through his second three of the game, providing the last of an incredible 21 lead changes. WVU's Jevon Carter missed a deep, desperation three-pointer well short as the clock expired and head coach Bob Huggins shook his head.
That West Virginia (12-2, 1-1 Big 12) was as close as it was is remarkable. The Mountaineers left 11 points at the foul line - six in overtime alone - and managed just Phillip's three in the extra time as its lone field goal. Over the final 13:51, overtime included, WVU made just three shots from the floor.
"We come in here and miss free throw after free throw after free throw in overtime," Huggins said on the MSN by IMG postgame radio show. "Really we didn't make any all game. The last three games which have been here have came down to the wire and we were fortunate enough to win. This one we let their best perimeter shooter open in the corner and they made it and then we don't get it at the basket (on the final shot).
"Frankly, it shouldn't have come down to that. When you get to the free throw line 12 times in overtime you should win."
It was part of a larger shooting epidemic, as West Virginia's four primary guards in Phillip, Carter, Dax Miles and Teyvon Myers were a combined 10-of-30 from the field. Esa Ahmad, the team's leading scorer at 12.6 points per game, eclipsed that mark to reach 13 by halftime. he was then shutout throughout the second half and the entire overtime session. Carter, with 11 points, was the only other Mountaineer to score more than 10, while Adrian and Lamont West scraped into double digits. Adrian's three at the end of regulation was his only one of the game on four tries for a WVU team hit just seven of 21 from deep while being largely unable to pressure Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders committed just 13 turnovers - half of West Virginia's season average to become just the second opponent this season to tally less than 19 - while assisting on 16 of 25 field goals. Zach Smith scored a game-high 15 points while Livingston, a fellow 6-8 forward, hit for a dozen, as did guard Keenan Evans.
"They spread us out and they had bigs who could handle the ball," Huggins said. "Smith did a great job handling the ball. But when you let guys go where they are supposed to go and you don't make the floor smaller and get off the help and do the things we preach everyday (you lose). It's been slipping every day and you go in and fight with them about being in the right place and doing the right thing. I am incredibly frustrated at this point because we are better than that."
Down 67-62 inside a minute, West Virginia forced overtime with five consecutive points, including Adrian's double clutch three-pointer from the corner with seven seconds left to tie the score. The Mountaineers then held, Tech's Shadell Millinghaus missing an off-balance three as time expired in regulation. It was part of a back-and-forth affair that saw runs from both sides.
The Raiders (12-2, 1-1) appeared to benefit from some quick whistles, including multiple on WVU's offensive end as Ahmad and Adrian were called for their fourth and third fouls, respectively, not even midway through the first half. Ahmad left the game at the 14:50 mark, and didn't return for the next seven-plus minutes.
The Mountaineers, hamstrung by foul trouble - Tech was into the bonus at with 12:30 to play and the double bonus with 10:32 left - relied on their pressure and some poor Red Raider free throw shooting - combined with five bench points- to enter the final seven minutes down just 56-55 after holding the TTU without a field goal for a four-plus minute stretch.
It was then that West Virginia hit its own skid, failing to score from the field for the next 3:35 until Carter broke the drought with a fade away jumper as the shot clock wound down to tie the game at 59-59 with five minutes left. Tech would continue to hold momentum, scoring the next six points to lead 65-59 with three minutes left before the closing 8-2 run by the Mountaineers to tie at 67-67 to end regulation.
West scored the first five points of the push with a deep three and two free throws, while Adrian capped the comeback with a three off a missed trey by West and the rebound and kick by Miles on WVU's final possession of the second period.
"We are not a very good shooting team, but we can make up for it," Huggins said. "They never let us in transition and when we did they did a good job getting back. We came back not making a shot. We didn't make a shot and we still fought and fought and fought. Nate made a big three to send it to overtime and we seemingly had control. Then we go one for first four at the line. We should have been up (four) and we are up one."
West Virginia led 37-34 after a back-and-forth first half. No team led by more than five, that coming early when Texas Tech went ahead 9-4 only to see the Mountaineers put together their biggest run of the half, a 6-0 spurt that gave WVU a 10-9 lead. The teams jostled from there, with five lead changes and five ties over the first 13 minutes and a whopping 10 lead changes and 10 ties overall.
West Virginia used its momentum into the break - when it scored the last four points of the half - to piece together a 13-4 run over both periods to put it ahead 45-38 with 17:13 to play. The Mountaineers generated excellent looks in transition and halfcourt, with Brandon Watkins and Miles routinely attacking the bucket. Tech scored seven of the next eight points, however, to get within 46-45 inside 14 minutes to set-up the ensuing series of lead changes.
This is the fourth season in a row that West Virginia - per request - has opened Big 12 play with consecutive road games. The Mountaineers are now 7-1 in those games.
"We have got to do a better job of lobbying with the league that this can't happen," Huggins said of the 9:15 eastern tip time. "It's not fair for our guys to get home at six in the morning."
WVU failed to start 13-1 for the third consecutive year. Last year’s team started 15-1 and the 2015 team started 14-1. The Mountaineers also dropped to 147-33 in their last 180 games against unranked teams.