After defeating TCU on Saturday, the West Virginia Mountaineers stayed in Texas to face Tubby Smith's Texas Tech Red Raiders Monday night. Eron Harris, Terry Henderson, Juwan Staten, Devin Williams and Kevin Noreen started the game for the Mountaineers, who hoped to start conference play 2-0 on the road. On the other side of the court stood Jaye Crockett, Dejan (don't call me Lenny) Kravic, Jordan Tolbert, Robert Turner, and Toddrick Gotcher.
Once again, Juwan Staten took the team on his back, scoring 25 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds on the night. Shooting 10-12 from the floor and 5-8 from the free throw line, Staten is living up to the expectations placed upon him by Coach Huggins and the Mountaineer faithful. Early in the game Staten started slowly after giving up a turnover on a travel, needing a timeout on an inbound pass, and then getting rejected on a short jumper. He followed all of that up by bricking a three pointer. To say it was a slow start would be an understatement. Apparently, he needed to get those miscues out of his system before torching the Red Raiders the rest of the game. The only other negative play (that I can remember) was a technical foul for taunting after a basket. With the game that young man had, I can overlook that, although it did come at a critical time when WVU could have used an extra two points. More on that later.
WVU started out down 5-0 before Devin Williams drove to the hoop and was fouled while scoring. After making his free throw, the game was 5-3. WVU followed up the great offensive effort with a great defensive effort that led to an immediate turnover. With back to back threes by Henderson and some great efforts by Gary Browne and the rest of team, much of the first half was dominated by WVU, who led by as many as 9. Just before halftime, Texas Tech nailed a three to make the score 39-33.
At the end of the first half, WVU was shooting 48.4% to Texas Tech's 37.9%. WVU was also 4-10 from the 3 point line while Tech was 3-10. Staten and Henderson led the Mountaineers with 11 and 10 respectively with Devin Williams adding 6 while Jordan Tolbert led Texas Tech with 10 followed by Dejan Kravic and Toddrick Gotcher both with 6.
The second half of this game was nothing short of a classic back and forth battle between two young, hungry teams.
In the second half, Juwan Staten continued to be Juwan Staten and the Mountaineers led 48-38 at one point before Texas Tech went on a 7 point run and brought it within 3 at 48-45. Terry Henderson came to the rescue and dropped a huge three to give WVU a little breathing room.
Texas Tech again climbed back in the game 58-57 after a sloppy turnover by WVU and the tight play continued. With the scoreboard showing 63-61 3RON Harris hit a three with 5:05 to give the hometown something to cheer about. Unfortunately, Texas Tech answered with a three of their own to keep things interesting.
For all of Staten’s great play, a critical bucket to take the lead 68-64 was basically negated after a technical foul for taunting led to two made free throws by Texas Tech. With 4:04 left to play WVU led 68-66. Bob Huggins decided that Texas Tech had seen enough 2-3 zone and shifted into a 1-3-1 which was defeated by the red raiders who tied the game at 68. Harris then missed an ill-advised 3 from way behind the line and Tech took the lead with a two point bucket by Crockett where he was fouled. After making the free throw, the Red Raiders were back in the lead for the first time since the early minutes of the first half, 71-68.
After the lead change, WVU seemed to settle down a bit and Staten hit another jumper to bring the Mountaineers within one. A foul at the other end lead to a 72-70 lead for Texas Tech before Devin Williams scored and was fouled in the process. In true Devin Williams form, he missed the free throw, only to have the rebound grabbed and put back by WVU's own Brandon Watkins to make the score 74-72 with 1:30 left to play.
Another foul by WVU and a free throw brought the game within one at 1:21 until Crockett dished it to Tolbert for an easy 2 to put Tech up 75-74 with :55 on the clock. Things were beginning to look bleak for the Mountaineers when Texas Tech took a 3 point lead late in the game, but Terry Henderson answered the bell with a giant 3 with :16 left in the game. After a Timeout, Texas Tech was unable to score and there was free basketball for all.
Interestingly, this was the first overtime game for both teams this season, though you'd never know it with the intensity that both sides showed. At one point, even the announcers commented that it looked like the first 5 minutes of the basketball game. Even a biased WVU fan (such as I) would have to admit that both teams showed a lot of hustle on the court tonight.
While much of the second half was a foul fest, a bright spot for WVU came when Nathan Adrian came up with a huge steal, took the ball down the court and made the layup to make the game 80-77 in favor of the Mountaineers. Those were his only two points of the game, and they couldn't have come at a better time.
The rest of overtime foul-shooting contest was won by West Virginia, who came out on top of this one 89-86.
WVU finished the game shooting 55.7% from the field and had 4 players in double figures. Juwan Staten scored 25, Eron Harris finished with 18, Terry Henderson had 16, and Devin Williams netted 12. Texas Tech shot 46.7% from teh field and also had 4 players in double digits for the night. Jordan Tolbert led the group with 18, Toddrick Gotcher had 17, Jaye Crockett with 15, and Dusty Hannahs finished with 14.
Once again, WVU proved they were not afraid to get their hands dirty, and played a very physical game with the Red Raiders. For their second game in Texas in 3 days, the Mountaineers showed grit and determination down the stretch, and just flat out refused to lose the game. The more I watch this team grow together, the more proud I am to call myself a Mountaineer. Keep an eye on this team, they could be a special group folks.
WVU looks to keep the ball rolling against Oklahoma State, January 11, at the Coliseum.
As always, Let's GO!