MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No. 9 West Virginia had five days to process a late-game meltdown at Kansas. Texas Tech is five days removed from a euphoric upset of No. 4 Baylor.
How those teams handled the space between could determine who wins Saturday’s game in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers (20-6, 8-5) let a victory evaporate in crushing fashion in Lawrence by squandering a 14-point lead in the final 2:45. Asked how he could convince his team to forget about such a collapse, coach Bob Huggins said, “I’m not sure I could if I tried.”
He’s hoping a two-day break from practice, and the chance to get revenge against Texas Tech (17-9, 5-8), will spark West Virginia into mindset.
“I wanted them to take two days off and try to retool themselves for the stretch run,” Huggins said.
On Jan. 3 in Lubbock, the Red Raiders overtook West Virginia 77-76, winning on Anthony Livingston’s 3-pointer with 4 seconds left in overtime. That remained Tech’s biggest victory until knocking off Baylor 84-78 this week.
“We happened to come out on the fortunate end against Baylor, but we’ve been playing good basketball for the past three weeks now,” said Texas Tech coach Chris Beard. “We need to continue to try to play the game on our terms.”
In terms of NCAA bracketology, the Red Raiders still require more profile-building wins. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi on Thursday listed them among his top eight teams out of the field.
Guard Keenan Evans (15.2 points, 46 percent from 3) remains Texas Tech’s top scorer, though sixth man Niem Stevenson averaged 21.5 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the recent two-game stretch against Kansas and Baylor. Forwards Zach Smith (13.2 points, 7.6 rebounds) and Livingston (10.7 points) each were clutch during the earlier upset of West Virginia.
“They’re on a heck of a roll,” Huggins said.
Yet the Red Raiders are 0-6 in Big 12 road games, and Beard doesn’t see much relevance from their face-off six weeks ago.
“To answer your question, no I don’t like our matchup,” he said. “We’ll have to play a near-perfect game to win in Morgantown.”
West Virginia is paced by forward Esa Ahmad (11.9 points), point guard Jevon Carter (11.8 points, 4.2 assists) and forward Nathan Adrian (10.8 points, 6.4 rebounds)
Guard Daxter Miles (9.2 points), once a reliable component of the offense, has only 10 points over his last three games.
Texas Tech (17-9, 5-8) at No.9 West Virginia (20-6, 8-5)
Tipoff: Saturday 2 p.m. (ESPN2)
Quoting Texas Tech: “We played 45 minutes of basketball and had low turnovers (13) for the game so that gave us a chance to get shots up.” — Chris Beard on the teams’ first meeting
RPIs: Texas Tech 85, West Virginia 30
Prediction: West Virginia 82-72