Just days after falling in an overtime heart-breaker to Kansas, West Virginia (21-6, 9-5 Big 12) bounced back and got its first OT win of the season against Texas Tech (17-10, 5-9 Big 12).
The Mountaineers started off Saturday afternoon's contest with an 8-2 run that was highlighted by a monster slam by Esa Ahmad, but the Red Raiders had an answer. Tech immediately followed West Virginia's solid start with an 8-0 run of its own to take a 10-8 lead, its first of the game, and that sequence was one that seemingly played out several times throughout the game's first 20 minutes.
Shortly after each teams traded jabs Jevon Carter hit back-to-back threes to put the Mountaineers on top 17-12, but Texas Tech's Niem Stevenson answered Carter with some smooth shooting of his own and that served as the main catalyst for a 10-2 Red Raider run. The Mountaineers then scored five straight after the Tech barrage, but Stevenson again answered with a three pointer and put Texas Tech back up by one point with a little over three minutes remaining in the half. Carter was able to hit another three, but the Red Raiders held their lead until halftime and entered the lockerroom up 33-31.
The main story of the half was Tech's shooting and more notably the Mountaineers' inability to slow their counterparts down. Tech shot a blistering 55 percent from the field including a 5-of-9 effort (56 percent) from behind the arc. Niem Stevenson was a large reason for that success, as the junior guard scored 17 of TTU's first 31 points and was 3-for-3 from long range.
The second half started out highly competitive as well; both teams traded buckets but it became apparent that West Virginia's pressure was much more effective than it was in the first 20 minutes. The Mountaineers were trailing 42-38 with 14:38 remaining when the press flustered Tech into three consecutive turnovers and brought the Mountaineers back. Those turnovers combined with Jevon Carter's shooting resulted in a 12-3 run that gave WVU its first lead of the second half at 50-45 with 10 minutes remaining.
Elijah Macon, who has been noticeably more assertive on the offensive end of the floor of late, played his best game of the season (possibly his career) and made a number of big buckets that kept the Mountaineers ahead of the Red Raiders down the stretch. But despite the efforts of Macon and Carter, West Virginia missed a handful of free throws in the game's final few minutes. During one stretch, the Mountaineers made just 2-of-6 free throws and enabled Tech to cut the lead to 62-61 with 13 seconds to play. Fortunately for West Virginia, Jevon Carter came through and hit the next two to push West Virginia's lead out to 64-61. However, on the ensuing possession the Mountaineers elected not to foul with a three point lead and Keenan Evans drilled a contested three-pointer to tie the game at 64 a piece with 4.6 seconds remaining and send the game to overtime.
Keenan Evans continued to lift the Red Raiders up in overtime and at one point had scored 16 of 18 points for Texas Tech. West Virginia, however. couldn't get anything going on the offensive side of the court and didn't score a single field goal in the first overtime period. But six made free throws were enough to send the game to a second overtime period as both teams were tied 70-70.
Carter and Macon, the two players who had carried the Mountaineers all afternoon, started out the second overtime with two quick buckets that brought the sell out Coliseum crowd to its feet. Shortly afterwards Daxter Miles soon got in the action with a pair of put-backs that kept the Mountaineers up by two possessions. Those plays and some timely free throw shooting gave West Virginia the advantage in double overtime and the 13 point period gave the Mountaineers an 83-74 victory.
Carter led the Mountaineers in scoring with 24 points and added seven boards, Macon finished his day with 17 points and 12 rebounds, his first career double-double and Tarik Phillip scored 15 while going 10-10 from the free throw line.
After the game's conclusion Phillip summed up his team's performance almost perfectly.
"It was a must win," said Phillip. "We had opportunities down the stretch and we just weren't going to let this one slip away. (Texas Tech) was fighting to get into the NCAA tournament and we're fighting for a higher seed in the NCAA tournament and the Big 12 tournament. It was a must win."
West Virginia has a quick turnaround and plays Texas on Saturday at 9:00 p.m.