West Virginia’s third straight loss seemed imminent, until Tarik Phillip’s dramatic 54 seconds flipped the ending in Lubbock.
The backup point guard made two late steals and scored the game’s final eight points, prompting the No. 6 Mountaineers to an 80-76 comeback win that stunned upset-starved Texas Tech.
Phillip finished with 20 points, sixth man Jaysean Paige scored 22 and West Virginia (16-3, 5-2) rejoined the four-team pack atop the Big 12 standings despite foul trouble that fed into brilliant 32-of-34 foul shooting by the Red Raiders (12-6, 2-5).
“Hey, we won,” said coach Bob Huggins, whose team trailed 72-67 with 2:21 remaining and by four in the final minute. “Don’t want to give it back. They’re all good.”
Phillip was particularly good when it counted, starting with his 3-pointer from the left wing that pulled WVU to within 76-75. Then he swiped the ball from Aaron Ross under the Texas Tech basket with 27 seconds left and blazed the length of the court for a go-ahead basket while being fouled by 6-foot-8 Zach Smith.
After Phillip’s free throw made it 78-76, Texas Tech had its chance to answer. Toddrick Gotcher missed a contested 3 with 11 seconds left, before Justin Gray chased down the offensive rebound along the baseline and tossed the ball back inbounds. That pass was deflected multiple times until Phillip grabbed it near halfcourt and raced in for the game-clinching dunk with 0.7 seconds left.
“That shows you how resilient we can be,” Phillip said. “We knew this was a must-win for us.”
The 10,732 on hand at United Supermarkets Arena were deflated by the late-game turn of events, much as they were last weekend when then-No. 22 Baylor escaped 63-60 on Lester Medford’s buzzer-beating 3.
“They did what they had to do to win the game,” Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t. It’s a tough loss for us.”
Zach Smith led the Red Raiders with a career-high 18 points and Gotcher added 12. Gray and Ross scored 11 each as Texas Tech’s bench poured in 40 points, nearly matching the 43 scored by West Virginia’s reserves.
The backups were forced to deliver as each team’s leading scorers essentially vanished. Tech guard Devaugntah Williams (13.2 per game) went scoreless in 10 minutes and West Virginia’s Devin Williams (13.9 points) fouled out with five points in 16 minutes.
West Virginia overcame its recent free-throw follies by making 22-of-28, and was respectable from 3-point range (8-of-19). Daxter Miles had two 3s on his way to 11 points, including a 22-footer that drew WVU to within 72-70 with 1:56 left.
“The message was to run them off the 3-point line, and I didn’t do a good job of that,” the senior guard said. “I gave up those two 3s. That was big.”
High-energy Holton: Jonathan Holton provided 13 points, a team-high six rebounds and two steals. His nonstop energy helped harass Texas Tech into 17 turnovers, though West Virginia gave 16 back.
“Jon Holton played with as much emotion as Jon Holton has played with in a long time,” Huggins said.
West Virginia held a 23-11 edge in points off turnovers.
“We did some things differently today, but 17 turnovers is just too many,” Tubby Smith said. “There was none any bigger than the last one of the game that led to a breakaway. I thought we were terrible.”
Williams minimized: After his standout forward fouled out for the second time in Big 12 action, Huggins took another indirect jab at the way officials are handling post play.
“I feel bad for Devin, because Devin has worked to be a good player and he never gets to play.”
Phillip gets heavy duty: Saturday’s 28 minutes marked the second-most for Phillip this season, behind the 30 he played in a double-overtime win at Kansas State.
“Tarik’s got a lot of courage,” Huggins said. “He has a tendency to make plays to win games.”
Conversely, starting point guard Jevon Carter committed four fouls, played a season-low 12 minutes and scored only four points, about one-third of his average. The sophomore managed four assists and two steals with no turnovers during his scaled-back action.
Perfect in Lubbock: West Virginia improved to 7-0 against Texas Tech in Big 12 regular-season games, including a 4-0 road mark.
“We’re lucky,” Huggins said. “We’ve been unlucky sometimes too. We’ll take it.”
Bunched-up Big 12: No. 1 Oklahoma won 82-72 at No. 13 Baylor, and No. 3 Kansas downed Texas 76-67, creating a four-way tie atop the conference.
Texas and Iowa State were a game back of the leaders at 4-3.