MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Texas Tech-West Virginia series had become one of razor-thin margins, with three straight meetings decided by two, two and three points. There was slightly more cushion Wednesday night as WVU built a 13-point lead, though the Mountaineers allowed the game to grow interesting before capping a 87-81 victory.
Below is a recap of the in-game blog from the WVU Coliseum:
WEST VIRGINIA 87, TEXAS TECH 81 (Final)
Henderson hits two free throws late to seal it, finishing with a career-best 28 points. Staten added 16 points and seven assists, while Harris scored 15 and Adrian a crucial 10 off the bench. (Especially crucial with Remi Dibo not getting into the game.) … For Texas Tech, Dusty Hannahs was stellar, making 7-of-7 from 3-point range on his way to 25 points. Jaye Crockett scored 16 and Gotcher had 15.
WEST VIRGINIA 80, TEXAS TECH 70 (3:10 second half)
An 11-2 run stretched WVU’s lead to 80-67 and put the Mountaineers in control. Harris had two baskets and Adrian drained a 3, but the real spark was Gary Browne overplaying Hannahs to steal a pass at he top of the key. That led to a breakaway layup. … West Virginia, by the way, is shooting 69 percent this half, compared to a mere 55 percent for Tech. Yeah, not much defense.
WEST VIRGINIA 73, TEXAS TECH 65 (7:00 second half)
OK, so Hannahs has a career-high 22 points after stopping and popping from 25 feet in transition. It’s fun watching a shooter who’s feeling it. Did we mention he’s 7-of-7 from the floor with five assists. … Meanwhile Henderson has a career-best 26 points for West Virginia, including 18 in the second half. He’s 10-of-13 shooting and bouncing back large from his no-show at K-State. Henderson and Hannahs should play H-O-R-S-E the rest of the way, with teammates ordered to stand down.
WEST VIRGINIA 61, TEXAS TECH 57 (11:33 second half)
Can Dusty Hannahs be stopped? The Texas Tech guard has 19 points on 6-of-6 shooting that includes 5-of-5 from 3-point range. The dude’s pumping them in from deep and even made a runner in traffic. He’s scoring like he did when he put 42 in the Arkansas state championship game.
WEST VIRGINIA 54, TEXAS TECH 47 (15:44 second half)
Henderson scores 10 points in a blur as WVU opens the half on a 14-6 run, making 6-of-7 shots from the floor. The Mountaineers, for the time being, have recovered from that end-of-half calamity. But this team hasn’t exactly made a habit of dominating second halves.
WEST VIRGINIA 40, TEXAS TECH 39 (Halftime)
As streaky a half as you’ll see concludes with these teams in a virtual stalemate. WVU leads the rebounding battle 19-13, with Devin Williams grabbing seven. Harris has a team-high nine points but none in the final 15:21. Henderson has eight, while Adrian and Williams have six points each. Gotcher leads Tech with 15 points, while Hannahs has 11 off the bench.
WEST VIRGINIA 40, TEXAS TECH 39 (Halftime)
The final 1.5 seconds turned from opportunity to disaster as WVU lost possession when Nate Adrian’s courtlong pass went out of bounds without being touched. Texas Tech inbounded under its own basket and Dejan Kravich—the 7-footer who was an 0-for-1 career 3-point shooter—drains one at the buzzer. Unfathomable.
TEXAS TECH 31, WEST VIRGINIA 30 (3:52 first half)
Held scoreless for more than 13 minutes, Staten buries a 16-footer, and moments later Texas Tech’s Jordan Tolbert picks up his second foul, exiting with three points, two assists and two rebounds. Remember he fouled out in Lubbock. … Both teams are splashing from long range: WVU 6-of-9 and Tech 5-of-6. Thing is, WVU is only 3-of-14 inside the 3-point line.
TEXAS TECH 26, WEST VIRGINIA 20, (7:55 first half)
So much for West Virginia having command of this one: Texas Tech goes on a 16-0 run highlighted by three Dusty Hannahs 3-pointers. The Mountaineers haven’t scored in the last 4:59, and point guard Juwan Staten hasn’t scored at all—defaulting to WVU’s open 3-point shooters.
WEST VIRGINIA 20, TEXAS TECH 10 (11:56 first half)
After the Mountaineers started 5-of-5 from deep, Harris gets a tad greedy and forces a try from the left wing, which Toddrick Gotcher blocks. That sparks a transition opportunity for the Red Raiders but the hustling Harris swats a shot against the backboard, and Nate Adrian buries a 3 on the other end. Scorer rules Harris’ foot was on the line, so WVU stays perfect, now 6-of-6 from 3-point land.
WEST VIRGINIA 11, TEXAS TECH 6 (15:46 first half)
The Mountaineers are off to rip-roaring start, going 3-of-3 from 3-point range (two of those by Eron Harris, one by Terry Henderson). WVU also has three offensive rebounds—recall Tech owned the rebounding edge in the first meeting. As for the crowd, well, it’s a sparse as you’d expect given two bottom-tier Big 12 teams and the icy/snowy road conditions. Maybe 2,000 in the building at tipoff.
You get the sense that Tech’s 6-foot-7 forwards—Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert—could help any team in the league. Crockett ranks No. 2 in the Big 12 in field-goal shooting (56.8 percent) while Tolbert would be leading (58.3 percent) but he’s just a few makes shy of qualifying. The Big 12 requires an average of five made field goals per game. … Crockett was intermittently terrible and excellent in WVU’s 89-86 overtime win on Jan. 6. He scored 15 points, making key plays down the stretch, but only after Tubby Smith benched him for a big stretch of the second half. Tolbert had 18 points and a season-high 12 rebounds in that loss.
Recalling the Jan. 6 game in Lubbock, Bob Huggins said Texas Tech used various zone defenses that slowed WVU. But the Mountaineers still shot 55 percent, the only time they’ve made more than 41 percent in any of the first five league games. Staten’s 10-of-12 performance certainly helped. “The first thing we have to do is keep Staten in check,” Smith told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “He’s really a one-man fast break and a one-man wrecking crew. He gave us all kinds of problems.”
West Virginia suspected it could play anyone in the league tough, but the past two games have dented that theory. Texas led by 21 in Morgantown and K-State built a 25-point margin in Manhattan on Saturday. “That was a total collapse of team, coaching staff, the whole deal,” Huggins said of the 78-56 loss to the Wildcats. “Nobody did a very good job.”
The same Texas team that manhandled West Virginia 80-69 in Morgantown had to scrap to beat Texas Tech 67-64 in Austin. If you’re into other competitive scores, Tech had an easier time at TCU (60-49) than did the Mountaineers (74-69).
Even casual college hoops fans recognize that Tubby Smith has enjoyed a distinguished coaching career, leading four programs (Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota) to a total of 17 NCAA berths. In trying to lift Tech’s program, he faces his biggest challenge yet—especially with fans showing barely a passing interest in the basketball team. So Smith generated some goodwill by showing up at a campus cafeteria last week and buying lunch for the students. No doubt some of those turned out that night for Tech’s upset of then-No. 12 Baylor, giving the United Spirit Arena energy it hasn’t witnessed this season. Another anecdote about the classy coach: Smith and his wife Donna made a surprising and thoughtful gesture in buying Christmas jewelry for the wives of the Red Raiders’ broadcast team.