Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett shoots against Baylor’s Gary Franklin (4) during the Red Raiders’ 82-72 upset win at United Spirit Arena last week.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins, for months tight-lipped about the academic travails keeping Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton off the court, decided some good news was worth revealing Tuesday.
“They will be eligible (next season), by the way—they’re both on the dean’s list,” Huggins said Tuesday, before tacking on some deadpan sarcasm. “I would assume if you’re on the dean’s list you’re probably going to squeak through.”
When Macon and Holton are finally cleared to contribute, 2014-15 could signal happier times for WVU basketball. But as for this season, the Mountaineers are stuck with their current makeup: a perimeter-oriented team that lives and dies from 3-point range while struggling to defend and rebound.
That composition has produced a three-game losing streak, the last two of which have not been competitive.
“We played very well in a loss to Oklahoma State and we had a chance to win the game,” Huggins said. “But Texas came here and played extremely well and we just didn’t shoot the ball very well. With our team, we have to shoot it from the perimeter. Then the Kansas State game, they just took it to us and we struggled with our shot.”
Thanks to a Big 12 scheduling quirk, WVU gets a quick rematch Wednesday night against Texas Tech, the last team the Mountaineers beat 16 days ago. Juwan Staten was a force throughout the 89-86 overtime win, producing 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting to go along with five assists and four rebounds.
But whereas West Virginia has gone south since that night in Lubbock, the Red Raiders have won two of three, including an 82-72 upset of then-No. 12 Baylor that was Tech’s first win over a ranked foe since 2009.
“This group has been through a lot of adversity and three losing seasons,” Tech coach Tubby Smith said. “They’re hungry to improve so they can prove they’re deserving of winning.”
SCOUTING TEXAS TECH
Tipoff: Wednesday, 8 p.m. in Morgantown (Big 12 Network)
Records: The Red Raiders (10-8, 2-3) bring in a record identical to WVU’s, though the Mountaineers won the first meeting 89-86 in Lubbock, a game sent to overtime by Terry Henderson’s 3 with 16.8 seconds left in regulation.
RPIs: Texas Tech is No. 113 and WVU is No. 98.
Coach: Tubby Smith (521-234 in 23 seasons overall) is aiming to rejuvenate Tech’s program after a six-year stint at Minnesota produced a 124-81 record, three NCAA bids and two NITs. Smith’s teams have turned 17 NCAA berths into nine Sweet 16s, three Elite Eights and the 1998 national title at Kentucky.
Texas Tech top players: Jaye Crockett (14. 2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 56-percent shooter) and Jordan Tolbert 12.1 points, 6.6 rebounds) are 6-foot-7 forwards who factored heavily into the first meeting. Tolbert finished with 18 points and 12 boards before fouling out, while Crockett added 15 points despite spending a chunk of the second half on the bench. … Dusty Hannahs, who sports the most touchable curls in the Big 12, scored 10 points in the span of 3:07 to lead a second-half charge in Lubbock, while Toddrick Gotcher added 17 points. … 7-footer Dejan Kravic, whose tip-in ousted WVU from the Big 12 tourney last season, has been a huge contributor the past two games with 26 points, 19 rebounds and six blocked shots. His passing has been crucial as well, with seven assists.
WVU roster notes: Eron Harris (17.6 points) ended an individual slump by scoring 21 at K-State, while Juwan Staten (17.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists) suffered a season-high seven turnovers. Harris and Staten rank third and fourth respectively in Big 12 scoring. … Henderson (11.6 points) was invisible at K-State, going 1-of-8 for two points, ending a string of five consecutive double-figure games. … West Virginia has slipped to ninth in the league in field-goal defense (43 percent), but Tech ranks only one notch higher at 42 percent.
Line: West Virginia favored by 6.5.
Prediction: WVU 73-67