KANSAS CITY, Mo. — West Virginia guard Jevon Carter insists air-tight defense requires attitude and persistence. Smarts can help too.
During crunch time of the Big 12 tournament semifinals, the league’s Defensive Player of the Year twice crowded the league’s No. 2 scorer Keenan Evans into low-percentage shots.
“That’s Jevon being Jevon, but that’s also Jevon paying attention to the scouting report,” assistant Larry Harrison said after the Mountaineers advanced over Texas Tech 66-63.
With 3:24 left in a two-point game, Carter hawked Evans into the corner and, with the shot clock expiring, deflected a 3-point try.
During the final 20 seconds, with WVU again leading by two points, Evans had more floor to work with as he probed from the top of the arc. When Carter cut off the right-side drive, Evans jabbed left and launched a difficult step-back 3 — mere centimeters from Carter’s extended arms. The shot barely grazed the rim and the Mountaineers secured the defensive rebound.
“When he goes left, he likes to step back and shoot the jumpshot or pump-fake,” Harrison said. “So JC stayed on his feet on both possessions and contested the shot. Evans tried to get separation but JC stayed right with him.”
Carter’s team got the victory in part because he got the better of the point guard matchup, outscoring Evans 17-13. The Texas Tech star shot 5-of-14 overall and matched his season-low with one assist. Carter handed out four assists and sank 4-of-7 from 3, though he shot 2-of-9 inside the arc, struggling to finish drives against the Red Raiders athletic forwards.
Carter draws another tough assignment in Saturday’s championship game, facing fellow senior Devonte’ Graham of Kansas, the conference’s player of the year.
In the 2016 tournament final, Graham scorched West Virginia for 27 points in the Jayhawks’ 81-71 win.
More recently, Graham’s 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists factored into Kansas coming from behind to beat WVU 77-69 at The Phog. Graham made 9-of-10 free throws that night, part of KU’s unfathomable 35-2 edge in foul shots.
Carter wouldn’t entertain questions about facing Graham.
“It ain’t about that,” he said. “It is West Virginia vs. Kansas; it is five guys on that court at one time. I hate when y’all try to make it a one-on-one matchup. It’s never about that.”
But Texas Tech coach Chris Beard highlighted the matchup, especially after seeing Carter play so relentlessly against Evans:
“Graham vs. Carter, two of the best guards in college basketball.”