LUBBOCK, Texas — West Virginia was re-enacting one of its patented second-half meltdowns by missing free throws, lagging on defense and generally leaking steam.
But even after squandering an 11-point lead and trailing three times during the final two minutes of regulation, the Mountaineers did enough to rescue an 89-86 overtime victory at Texas Tech on Monday night. Coupled with Saturday’s narrow win at TCU, West Virginia boarded its charter flight back to frigid Morgantown as the Big 12’s early frontrunner.
“I think any coach in this conference would be excited to win two games on the road,” said coach Bob Huggins. “This is a pretty hard league to win in. You’ve got to be excited to be 2-0 on the road.”
This one became a little too exciting after West Virginia (10-5, 2-0) appeared to have control early in the second half, leading 44-33 when Eron Harris buried a 3-pointer in front of the Mountaineers bench. The margin was 48-38 with 17:20 left after Harris accidentally banked home a jumper, a misleading omen that a runaway was afoot.
Instead Texas Tech (8-7, 0-2) rallied—just as it done in erasing a 20-point hole against Iowa State two days earlier. Only this rally wasn’t sparked by one of Tech’s top options, but rather by the hot hand of Dusty Hannahs, an unimposing guard who blistered WVU for 10 points in a span of 3:07. That spurt energized the woefully inadequate crowd of 5,005 at the United Spirit Arena and set the stage for a white-knuckle conclusion.
Bolstered by 65-percent second-half shooting, the Red Raiders hung close for the next eight minutes before Jaye Crockett completed a three-point play that pushed Tech ahead 71-68 with 2:55 to play.
“I thought we had the game going the way we wanted it to go, but we stood around on defense and let them get back into the game,” Huggins said.
Juwan Staten scored two of his game-high 25 points to slow Tech’s momentum, but the point guard’s biggest play of the night came on WVU’s final possession regulation—a simple chest-high pass to Terry Henderson curling off a screen, which led to the 3-point equalizer at 77-all.
And so the game surged to overtime, though not before Hannahs missed an open 23-footer in front of the Tech bench with 3 seconds left.
West Virginia led throughout overtime and enjoyed a cushy 88-83 edge with 15 seconds left. But o a night when nothing was meant to be easy, Tech got a 3-pointer from Toddrick Gotcher with 10 seconds left and then regained possession down 89-86 after Gary Browne missed the second of his free throws with 3.8 seconds.
After Tech’s court-long pass caromed out of bounds off WVU’s Devin Williams—necessitating the third video review of the late stages—Tech had a chance to tie, inbounding under its own basket. But Crockett’s contested 3 from the corner clanked off at the buzzer.
“This is a tough one to take,” said Red Raiders coach Tubby Smith. “I really thought we were going to find a way to win this one, but we didn’t.”
Tech wasted Jordan Tolbert’s 18-point, 12-rebound effort, capped by the forward fouling out in OT. Crockett scored 15 despite sitting out a chunk of the second half as Smith squeezed energy from his backups, and Gotcher added 17.
Playing essentially with eight scholarship players as Remi Dibo fought flu symptoms through five uneventful minutes, WVU needed every contribution it got from Harris (18 points), Henderson (16 points, five assists) and Devin Williams (12 points, seven rebounds).
Staten, seated on a concourse floor after playing 44 minutes, found some satisfaction in West Virginia pulling out a game it nearly flubbed by making only 13-of-22 foul shots and being out-rebounded 35-26.
“It’s always fun to win by a nice margin, but these are the games you live for,” he said. “Everybody wants to play college basketball in a game that comes down to the wire.”